Monday, November 25, 2013

Any Given Sunday

In this household Sunday is a day of hiking, football, and baking. The hiking almost always comes before the latter two, as we justify sitting on the couch watching football and eating a cookie with all the calories we burned earlier in the day. What came out of the oven this Saturday? The best bran muffins and chocolate chip cookies to grace this planet. No joke. 

How many times have you read a blog claiming the best chocolate chip cookies? My guess is every food blog worth its salt makes the claim because whether we are bakers, cooks, or a hybrid of both, like me, we all love a good chocolate chip cookie and why not pursue the best. So I have made many a chocolate chip cookie claiming to be the best and with this cookie there is simply no rival. It's an adaptation of Cook's Illustrated Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie. By the way if you don't own the Cook's Illustrated Cook Book, I suggest you purchase one immediately. All of the recipes are delicious and it's almost guaranteed you will find a superior recipe for whatever you may be craving at the moment. As for their chocolate chip cookies, well, they are unparalleled. Why? Brown butter, of course, and lots of it, and a greater dose of brown sugar, in my opinion, are what sets these babies apart. As far as chocolate chip cookies go, they are complex, yes, complex, like a fine wine. Nutty, caramel delights, with a chocolate punch. My only adaption? I slightly cut the butter and sugar and believe me, you won't miss it. 

Finally, the muffins, I will let them speak for themselves. Fruit makes them moist and sweet so they require little in the way of fat and added sugar to make them superb. What more could you want? Nothing as far as I'm concerned. So grab a cookie, watch a football game or your favorite show, and enjoy a glorious Sunday. 
Sticky Sweet No-guilt Bran Muffin
Adapted from the Gouda Life, make one dozen large muffins
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup bran cereal
3 tbs chia seeds
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 mashed bananas
2 unpeeled apples grated
1/3 cups raisins
3 tbs molasses 
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs beaten
2 tsp vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350. Pulse bran cereal in food processor until course crumbs. Mix together first nine ingredients.
Mix all wet ingredients together. Fold in dry ingredients until just combined. 
Line with muffin wrappers or use nonstick spray on muffin tin and fill with batter. Bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Slightly adapted from Cook's Illustrated, makes about 14 cookies 
1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8¾ ounces)
½ teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 large (18x12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.
 In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside.
 Heat 8 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan constantly until the butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and transfer the browned butter to a large heatproof bowl. Stir the remaining 2 tablespoons butter into the hot browned butter until completely melted. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
 Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to the bowl with the butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk until the mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let the mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat the process of resting and whisking 2 more times until the mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in the chocolate chips and give the dough a final stir to ensure there are no hidden flour pockets.
 Scoop the dough into 14 even portions, each about 3 tablespoons, and arrange them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. Bake the cookies until the cookies are golden brown but still puffy, and the edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes. I pull them out slightly earlier than I think to get the perfect chewey texture. Golden brown edges are usually my indicator to pull them. Transfer the baking sheet to wire rack and allow cookies to cool completely before serving. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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