Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Comfort Food Cookies

Some weeks, you just need to bake.

And this week, the pull has been especially strong. The weather in the South has been unusually frigid-rain battered against my roof all day yesterday- and cold air continues to seep through the frames of gray, foggy windows.  It’s at this point that my mind wanders to what my kitchen might smell like if I turned on the oven and let the heat do its work on something sweet.

Also, did I mention- it’s the week of THANKSGIVING? And if you don’t want to bake this week, then the likelihood is that you never will. Unless, of course, it’s World Nutella Day and that is an exception to every rule.

But back to baking. There is a coffee shop and book store that I absolutely adore whose chocolate chip break-up cookies are not to be missed. On cold fall days, they are the baking remedy to whatever life looks like. They are buttery; dense but chewy; with chunks of semisweet chocolate that melt in your mouth before you get a slight hit of the salt that is artfully placed on top.

Cookies Up Close

I have wanted to recreate these cookies for a while, and this week, I needed to bake them. This recipe from Joy the Baker is as close as I have gotten to date. Her version tastes and smells like warmth; the browned butter and flaky sea salt roll comfort food into a simply, incredibly delicious form.

I know this aren’t the typical Thanksgiving dessert- we’ll leave that to pumpkin/pecan/cranberry jelly pies- but I am pretty sure that the smell of these warm out of the oven will make any holiday guest feel instantly at home. Even on a cold, rainy, almost wintry fall day.

Cookies from Above

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is from the super talented and fabulous Joy the Baker. I made a few changes from her original recipe, and they are noted in italics.

What You Will Need

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon molasses (I used honey, but I think molasses would be delicious)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (I prefer my cookies without nuts, unless it is peanut butter, which is a different story)
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (or semisweet chocolate chunks)
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling

What You Will Do

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.

2. Start by browning 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter.  In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Once the butter has melted completely, it will begin to foam and froth as it cooks.  The butter will also crackle and pop.  That’s the water cooking out of the butter.  Swirl the pan occasionally, and keep an eye on the melted butter.  The butter will become very fragrant and brown bits will begin to form at the bottom of the pan.

3. Once the bits are an amber brown (they are about the color of this wood), immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour browned butter (bits and all) into a small bowl.  Leaving the butter in the pan will burn it.  Allow the butter to cool for 20 minutes.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the  remaining 1/2 cup of butter with brown sugar.  Cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes (this will be a very light, beige color).  Add the vanilla extract and molasses (or honey) and beat until incorporated.

5. Once the brown butter has cooled slightly, pour the butter (brown bits and all) into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.  Add the granulated sugar and cream for 2 minutes, until well incorporated.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat for 1 minute more.

6. Stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that everything is evenly mixed (this is important; I had some unmixed bits in my bowl).  Add the flour mixture all at once to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until the flour is just incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a spatula to fold in pecans (optional) and chocolate chips.

7. Spoon batter onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and wrap into a disk or cylinder and seal at both ends.  Allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

8. Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or a Silpat).  Scoop dough by the two tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets (or cut your dough log into 24 slices and make dough balls from each slice with your hands).  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Be sure to leave about 2 inches of space between each cookie.

9. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.  Remove them from the oven and allow to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes.  Serve warm or allow to cool completely.

Chicken Soup with White Wine, Kale and Tomatoes

Kale Soup with White Wine

Sometimes in life, creative inspiration and writing about food comes easily. Other times, one might prefer to bang one’s head against the wall while using a rolling pin to make mad stabs at the keyboard, hoping that something along the lines of creative thought (maybe in the form of a surprise Microsoft Word spell-check rewrite) appears.

And, we’ve all had chicken soup. Your typical recipe is predictable and comforting, and that’s good; but is anyone else out there bored with the standard version? What if we turned the typical method on its head and did something creative and ahem, fun?

Now, to be honest, my sudden zeal for revamping the chicken soup scene did not happen on it’s own. The inspiration actually came from my friends at uproot wines in Napa Valley. Greg and Jay are self-described “renegade wine makers” with a passion for looking to the future to inspire a better, more modern way of creating delicious wine. They are using the best-of-the-best equipment, ingredients, and techniques to create innovative wine like you’ve never tasted before.

And, in a side note, for a novice wine drinker like myself, I appreciate the fact that they label their bottles-how cool is this-by color, with each bar on the bottle representing the wine’s flavor profile. So, the purple stripe represents passion fruit, light green is melon, yellow is grapefruit. Genius.

I will always be grateful to Jay and Greg because, after following their example, there is no better way for me to express my love for this new recipe for chicken soup. Frying the chicken skins in olive oil at the start gives deep, chicken-y richness to the broth, and the de-glazing work done by the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc creates a mellow sweetness, while kale and tomatoes round out the umami punch.

The final result is deliciously inviting on a crisp fall day, smells like roasted chicken with garlic, and is as full-bodied and flavored a soup as I’ve made (the complete opposite of the overly salted, condensed versions lurking in your canned goods pantry).  In fact, this soup is so good that if I could afford a magic carpet, I would find you and bring you a batch of mine (and I don’t play when referring to world travel).

On a final note, you know what makes this soup taste even better? Drinking it with the uproot Sauvignon Blanc. The lively, sweet-but-smooth white is dynamite with the hearty chicken and potatoes in the soup. I can not wait for you to try this. So put a little pre-Thanksgiving vinyl on your record player, visit the uproot site to get inspired, and make some deliciousness this week.

Yes, that's my awesome boyfriend photographer in the spoon.
Yes, that’s my awesome boyfriend photographer in the spoon.

Chicken Soup with White Wine, Kale, and Tomatoes

What You Will Need:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded and skins removed (set the skins aside for the frying process)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup uproot 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 white onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups onion)
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced (don’t forget to include the leafy tops here too!)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 red potatoes, diced
  • 1 Parmesan rind (about one to two inches in width and height)
  • 1 15-oz can canned, diced tomatoes
  • 5 cups kale, shredded and ribs removed (I used bag kale for mine)
  • 3 cups white beans (I prefer to make mine from dried using the method below*, but you are more than welcome to used canned white beans too! Just rinse them ahead of time.)

What You Will Do

For the Soup

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat to simmering in a large dutch oven.

2. Add about 1/2 cup chicken skin. Flash fry the skins in the oil for about 10-15 seconds, until dark brown bits start to form on the bottom of the pan.

3. Using a slottted spoon, remove the chicken skins, and add 1 tablespoon more oil. Add the onion and celery and saute until translucent, stirring frequently. Once the vegetables are soft, add the garlic, paprika, and chili powder and cook for about one more minute.

4. Add the Sauvignon Blanc and stir frequently, deglazing the pan and capturing all of those tasty brown bits that might be left. Cook until the liquid is reduced to about half.

5. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, Parmesan rind, and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cover for twenty minutes.

6.  Add the shredded chicken, 3 cups beans, and kale. Let everything warm through until the kale is slightly wilted. Remove the Parmesan rind if it hasn’t dissolved, and season with additional salt and pepper  to taste. Serve the soup, adding extra grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

*For the beans (if making from dried; this method was adapted from Whole Foods instructions):

What You Will Need

  • 1 lb dried white beans
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper

What You Will Do:

1. Sort through 1 pound of white beans, removing any stragglers or broken beans.

2. Rinse beans over a colander to remove any extra grit.

3. Put beans in a large dutch oven, and cover with water until you have about a two- inch margin of water above the beans (about six to eight cups of water). Put the beans in the fridge about eight hours or overnight.

4. Once ready, drain and rinse your beans one more time.

5. Bring your soaked white beans with enough water to cover them by about 1 1/2 to 2 inches, two bay leaves, and a generous dash of salt and pepper to boil in a large dutch oven. Once the beans are boiling, skim the beige foam that forms off of the top. Reduce the heat to simmer, and cover the beans for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until they are tender.

Blackberry Farm Griddle Cakes with Cinnamon Peach Syrup

Pancakes

I have a slight obsession with Blackberry Farm.

And by slight I mean I own both of their cookbooks (at one point I had two copies of The Foothills Cuisine),  and daydream regularly about living there. Oh, and they also recently did a beautiful spread-and are selling their homemade goodies-with Williams Sonoma. Which makes my food wanderlust even worse.

Located in the gorgeously green foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Blackberry Farm is a foodie’s dream. Fueled by an on-location organic garden and supplied by their own sheep’s (as in, their own pasture full of) cheese, happy diners head back to their customized cabins at the end of a glorious day of eating to rest under the cool mountain stars, only to awake and do it all over again. Or at least, this is what I hear.**

**I did once drive to Blackberry Farms, illegally enter the gates, and scope out their dining room. I stayed under the radar until I attempted to drive my four-door sedan down a road clearly intended for a guests-only golf cart. I also may or may not have hit a large stump in my flustered attempt to back out of the tiny driveway.

I digress.

These Blackberry Farm recipe pancakes graced the cover of Bon Appetit, and I was immediately whisked away by an image of myself  in a rocking chair, overlooking the green scape of the farms, while a gentle gardener served me a plate of steaming pancakes that were gently  releasing their heavenly aroma into the air.

Reality returned, and I decided that the first step toward the dream would be actually cooking them. And in true LuvCooks style, when I made this recipe it was in the middle of a sweltering summer in the south and our syrup options did not include gracefully picking through the blackberries outside in the garden soil. Instead, I braved the 90+degree heat and nabbed some late-summer peaches from a local farmer’s market.

Below are the most delicious gluten-free pancakes you have ever tasted. And the most outstanding peach syrup I’ve ever had. Even if you aren’t eating them on top of a mountain, it will still feel peachy-keen.:)

Blackberry Farm Griddle Cakes (This recipe and its instructions are taken from bonappetit.com)

What You Will Need

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup gluten-free oat flour
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil (for skillet)

What You Will Do*

  • Whisk egg, buttermilk, and maple syrup in a small bowl. Whisk oat flour, cornmeal, rice flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Whisk buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients, then whisk in butter until no lumps remain.
  • Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat; lightly brush with oil. Working in batches, pour batter by 1/4-cupfuls into skillet. Cook until bottoms are browned and bubbles form on top of griddle cakes, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until griddle cakes are cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.

*My incredible, gluten-free chef friend Annie cooked these pancakes, and they turned out beautifully. This batter is a bit thinner than your usual pancake batter, so just make sure you watch them since they cook a bit more quickly than normal.

LuvCooks Cinnamon-Peach Syrup

What You Will Need

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 peaches, skinned and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

What You Will Do

1.  Bring water, honey, and sugar to a boil.

2. Add the peaches, vanilla extract, and cinnamon, and let the mixture return to a boil.

3. Turn the heat back down to low and simmer until the peaches are soft, or about 15 mintues.

4. Continue to let the mixture simmer at medium to medium-low until it gets about the consistency you want. I watched mine for about 45 more minutes and had to head out to feed some hungry pancake eaters, so mine was a bit thinner. It was delicious, but if you like a thicker syrup, try to avert the hunger pangs by letting it cook for a bit longer.