5 Tips for Better Cookies

Moving towards summer, there are those, like me, who may start doing more baking as school ends and schedules free up. Something you probably have baked the most (I have) are COOKIES. They come in many shapes and forms, but largely conform to the same principles; Butter with the sugar, then the dry ingredients, the extra crunch, then baking. Cookies Collage

As something you may have done many times routinely, what are some ways you can change up the process and result in cookies with more flavor, and possibly a more desirable texture?

  • Tip #1: Brown the butter. You don’t have to brown all of it; Half the amount of melting butterbutter you’ll use can go into a saucepan, while the other half simply stays softened. Melt the first half in your saucepan, and keep over heat until it acquires a stronger smell and browns a little. This will give your cookies a deeper richer flavor.

 

  • Tip #2: Add instant coffee grounds. Don’t put too much in. The coffee grounds, like the browned butter, play a similar role to salt and brown sugar, and deepen and bring out a fuller or different flavor. This may not work well in some cookies, but can work swell in different sorts of chocolate cookies as coffee compliments chocolate magnificently.  Use your judgement before adding coffee grounds to your cookie batter willy-nilly. And if you decide to use it, mix it with your dry ingredients before adding.
  • Tip #3: Subtract an egg white. This one is an idea from America’s Test Kitchen. By leaving out an egg white (via egg separation), you are “bringing out the brown sugar” flavor. I use this method in my recipe “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies” and it works amazingly.
  • Tip #4: Increase oven temperature. This is another great idea from America’s Test choco chip cookiesKitchen. By increasing your oven temperature, you are effectively browning the edges and allowing the middle to stay nice and soft. Don’t go crazy with this – keep your oven at around 375 F.

 

 

  • Tip #5: Add more vanilla. A bit of advice from my aunt, and I use it as a general rule of thumb for any sugary baking project. If you are using a recipe, it will almost every time benefit if you add around an extra teaspoon than what is called for. Vanilla acts like salt and brings out the full potential of flavor.

 

There you have it! Feel free to comment with techniques of your own, and please check out my other recipes, including Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Soft Snickerdoodles, and follow my blog to stay updated via email!

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Almond & Fruit Cupcakes

These Almond & Fruit Cupcakes are simple and fast to make, happen to be gluten-free, and hold very little sugar. This makes them quite versatile, and can be served primarily at breakfast, lunch, eaten even as an after-dinner light dessert, or just snacked on whenever (in moderation).

Enjoy with a topping of your favorite fruit jam.

 

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I based this recipe off of the New York Times Food recipe for ‘Mini Almond Cakes’ which I really enjoyed but wanted to make my own recipe, and make it a little differently. I added egg yolks in addition to the usual fluffy egg white–but not before also fluffing the egg yolks with some confectioners sugar.

The cool thing about these Almond cupcakes is that they are automatically gluten-free, as they use almond meal instead of flour. They also do not use a ton of sugar and taste light, and go especially well with the sweeter fruit jam on the top. Enjoy!


 

Almond & Fruit Cupcakes Recipe   –   –   –   –   –   PRINT

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Black Bottom Cupcakes

Black Bottom Cupcakes are a simple but delicious type of muffin; basically comprised of a chocolate-muffin base, then topped in the center with rich cheesecake filling. They satisfy chocolate lovers and cheesecake fans alike.

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This recipe may be different than others in that I use coconut oil in the batter rather than vegetable oil. I recently read a Bon Appetit snippet that explained that coconut oil was better in chocolate cake than other options; that coconut oil in fact increases the moistness of the cake the longer it sits after baked, instead of drying out. So I thought that principle should apply to these muffins.

This recipe is also different from others in that I use melted chocolate chips in addition to the usual cocoa powder. I also used hot coffee instead of the usual water, and used the hot coffee to melt the chocolate chips in. Double purpose.

The result is a great combination of rich cheesecake filling with dark chocolate base, which rises beautifully in the oven, and tastes as delicious as it looks. See recipe below.

Enjoy! Also, for full step-by-step pictures, see my post of this recipe on instructables.

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BLACK BOTTOM CUPCAKES RECIPE  – – – – – – – – – – –  PRINT

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Apple Blueberry Crisp

Blueberries added with apples make a great twist on the classic apple crisp.

If you want the recipe to make more, then increase the amount of apples and blueberries, and put it in a 9×13 dish instead of the smaller pan.

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Ingredients:

Topping

⅔ cups flour

½ cup oats

⅔ cup brown sugar

¾ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup cold unsalted butter

Filling

4 apples

3 cups blueberries

1 teaspoon cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ cup flour

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons melted butter

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons milk

DIRECTIONS:

Mix together flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor, or bowl. Add in chunks of cold butter and process or manually cut in the butter until it is small crumbs. Set in fridge until needed.

For filling, core, cut, and peel apples, and put them a large bowl. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Stir flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, melted butter, lemon juice, sugars, milk, salt, and vanilla in a small bowl until combined. Pour mixture over apples, and toss to coat completely.

Place apple mixture in an 8×12 pan, and sprinkle all of the crumb topping over it, evenly, until completely covered.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes until mixture is bubbling, and topping is brown.

If you are serving this recipe to more than 6 people, then add 3 more apples to the mixture, and increase the amount of blueberries, and then put the mixture into a 9×13 pan. Bake longer than usual.

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Layered Lemon Cake

This layered lemon cake is comprised of three layers: Icing, Lemon Curd, then Icing, on three slices of cake.

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INGREDIENTS:

(Makes one medium size cake, 16 medium slices)

CAKE:

  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

ICING:

  • 1 tablespoon of butter, melted
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

FILLING:

  • Lemon curd

You can make your own lemon curd, or buy it from the store.

DIRECTIONS:

Grease two cake pans, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the zest off a 1 lemon. Put it, and the sugar into a food processor, and blend for one minute, until all the zest is finely blended up. Transfer mixture to kitchen aid, or a plain ole stand mixer, and cream in butter. Add eggs one at a time, and then add vanilla.

In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix into wet ingredients until combined.

Pour batter into the two prepared cake pans, making sure one is thicker (the one you’ll cut lengthwise in half) than the other. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until cake springs back up to touch.

To make icing, whip melted butter, powdered sugar, milk and 1 Tbs. of lemon juice in a smallish bowl. Set to the side.

When they are done baking a cooled off, place the thinner cake section upside down on serving platter. Take the thicker one, and cut lengthwise in half. You’ll have two perfect thin section of cake for an extra layer.

On top of the first section that you placed on the serving platter, spread on half of the icing evenly.

Place one section of the thicker halves on top of this iced layer. Then spread on the lemon curd thickly. Place on the last layer of cake. On this one, spread the final layer of icing. Now you’re ready to serve it. If you prefer, you can always refrigerate a few hours before serving, and it might hold up a little better…

See my original post of this recipe on instructables

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Chocolate Waffle Cake

For those of you who like making chocolate cake, and making waffles, why not do something new and put them together?

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INGREDIENTS:

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INGREDIENTS:

For the waffles: (makes 4-5 large Belgian waffles)

3 eggs

1 cup coconut milk

¾ cup warm coffee

½ cup chocolate chips, melted

½ cup vegetable oil

4 tablespoons sugar

1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup cocoa powder

4 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla

 

For Frosting:

1 cup chocolate chips (= 8oz baking chocolate)

⅔ cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon corn syrup

 

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare a large Belgian waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions.

This is the one I used: Cuisinart Belgian Waffle Maker

In a separate medium bowl, combine flours, 4 tablespoons sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Dump eggs, coconut milk, oil, and vanilla, into a large bowl.

Dump the dry ingredients into the large bowl with wet ingredients, and mix until smooth and incorporated.

Heat the coffee up in a microwave-proof dish.

Dump in 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Stir until melted and combined with coffee.

Pour chocolate/coffee mixture into batter.

Mix until combined.

Cook batter in waffle iron, according to instructions. (With my waffle iron I used the no. 3 setting)

You should turn out with 4-5 large waffles. Optionally, you can use a small portion of left over batter: pour the small portion of leftover batter into one corner of the waffle maker. You can use this for decoration on the top of the cake later.

Heat heavy cream and butter in saucepan on medium heat until it just begins to boil. Make sure butter is melted. Return heat to low, and stir in corn syrup, and sugar, until sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla.

Pour hot mixture over chocolate chips in a medium metal bowl, and stir until chocolate is melted.

Place chocolate mixture in bowl in a ice bath, and stir until frosting hardens a bit. Take out of ice bath and whip with a beater until it is light and fluffy.

Don’t ice the waffles until they are completely cooled.

Place one waffle on a serving dish. Spread frosting thinly over it.

Place the second waffle down over, and spread frosting over that.

Do this with the rest of the waffles, spreading over the final part in a thin layer, not the sides.

Here’s where that extra optional waffle corner comes in: You can place it how you want to on the top of the cake on the icing. See picture.

Place in fridge for 15 minutes before serving.

NOTE:

There is not much icing for the waffles, which is why you should only do thin layers, and not over the sides. But if you want to, you can double the icing, and make it look more like a standard cake.

However, this look still looks good as you can see the sides of the waffles, and reduces sugar.

And that’s it! Thanks for reading, and be sure to also check out my original post of this recipe on instructables.

 


 

Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting

Finally, JUST a chocolate cake. A rich, plain old chocolate cake, using many of the same ingredients and techniques that are used in my instructables Raspberry Chocolate Cake and Harry Potter’s Birthday Cake

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I learned a lot from Jen Wold’s Cake Decorating Class on Instructables, and really recommend it to any beginner cake makers (like me) who like to make cake, and want to learn how.

Ingredients:

(For Cake Batter, Makes three 6-inch round cakes)

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup chocolate chips

¼ cup cocoa powder

½ cup coffee, hot

1 ¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ¾ teaspoons baking soda

4 large eggs + 2 egg yolks

½ cup oil

1 cup buttermilk

¼ cup butter, softened

 

(For Frosting)

1 ⅓ cup chocolate chips (a bit more than 8 oz of baking chocolate)

⅔ cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon corn syrup

 

DIRECTIONS:

Butter and flour three 6-inch cake pans, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If you only have two 6-inch cake pans, don’t worry. You can bake two cakes, then take them out, and use the same one to bake in again, with the reserved batter.

Over a saucepan filled a bit with simmering water, in a medium bowl, pour the hot coffee. Stir in chocolate chips and cocoa powder, and stir until chocolate is melted. Stir ½ cup of sugar until it is creamy and dissolved, a couple minutes. Mix oil in well. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda.

To substitute buttermilk, if you don’t have it: in a measuring cup, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Fill the rest of the cup up with milk and let sit for a few minutes. Combine this, or buttermilk, in a medium bowl with vanilla.

In a stand mixer, whip all the eggs, and the remaining 1 ¼ cup of sugar on high for a few minutes, until fluffy and light. Stir in the chocolate mixture and softened butter until completely combined.

Add a bit of the flour mixture, and a bit of the buttermilk mixture alternately into the sugar mixture in the stand mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Stir until combined, no more, no less.

Pour the batter in equal shares into the prepared cake pans, (if you only have two 6-inch pans, then pour 2/3 of the batter into the two of them, and reserve the other third for when the next pan is out of the oven).

Bake in preheated oven for at least 25 minutes, checking to see if done after 25 minute period. Doneness is reached when toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with only a few crumbs.

If you only had two 6-inch cake pans, now’s the time to bake that other cake real quick, and you’re done with the cakes!

When done, flip cakes over, still in their pans onto cooling rack, peel off the parchment paper. Then flip right side up on the racks and let cool completely before frosting, a couple hours. Then with a large serrated knife, level the tops of the cakes off, so you have a nice even surface, and a nice even cake, and not the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Heat heavy cream and butter in saucepan on medium heat until it just begins to boil. Make sure butter is melted. Return heat to low, and stir in corn syrup, and sugar, until sugar is dissolved. Add vanilla.

Pour hot mixture over chocolate chips in a medium metal bowl, and stir until chocolate is melted. Place chocolate mixture in bowl in a ice bath, and stir until frosting hardens a bit. Take out of ice bath and whip with a beater until it is light and fluffy.

Now’s the time to ‘decorate’ the cake, or just frost it. As I mentioned before, there is a great class on Instructables making a great cake, particularly the decorating. See that class here.

It was a really helpful class, and here’s my own instructions on how to ice the cake:

If you haven’t yet, level the rounded tops of the cake layers so that they are flat, with a knife.

Start with the first layer of cake.

Put some of the frosting on top of the center. With your knife angled outwards, turn the cake platter, and push the frosting gradually out, until there is a smooth circle of frosting on the top of the cake.

If you want to, as I did, you can smash some fruit like strawberries, or raspberries in between layers, as in picture.

Place the second layer on top of it. Repeat the process as described above.

Then put on the last layer of cake. Then ice the rest of the cake, sides, and top, making sure to reserve a good bit of icing for going over the cake again. The first layer you just put on is the ‘crumb’ layer, and after cooling it in the fridge for 20 minutes or so, you should have a nice solid cake to put the last layer of ganache on.

A cake frosting knife as shown in pic is very helpful in this situation. After applying the final layer of ganache, refrigerate for another 20 + minutes, and then take out of fridge.

Now, if you want to, you can do something extra that will probably make your cake look smoother and nicer.

Run your cake knife over really really hot water for about fifteen seconds, then quickly dry it with a paper towel, and run the hot knife smoothly over the cold ganache. Repeat this a few times until you have a smooth frosting.

Store in fridge, completely plastic wrapped to keep it from drying out.

Serve.

To see full step-by-step pictures for this recipe, go to my original post on instructables.

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