Baked Goods and the Happiness They Bring

I will freely admit that I am not the best baker in the world.  I can make cakes, cookies (I am the king of Christmas cookies), and other small treats, but attempts to make breads sometimes do not have the best outcomes.  What’s funny about this is the fact that my mother is a baker.  Needless to say there are phone calls with questions whenever I decide to turn the kitchen into a bakery.  However, there are some recipes that, according to my wife, I own!  Two of them are my chocolate chip cookies and my buttermilk biscuits.  I LOVE chocolate, so any time is a good time for these cookies and, since I just made peach jam (see my earlier post), I decided that the house needed biscuits ready and waiting for breakfast (or any other time).  First, I will share my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, which includes an unexpected twist (or two).

I am a huge proponent, like many of the chefs I respect, of using top quality ingredients whenever you can.  Chocolate is one of those ingredients that can really shine or fall flat depending on the quality of the chocolate used.  My personal favorite is Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate (www.ghirardelli.com).  I know what you’re thinking and believe me, I understand.  I grew up eating the same Nestle Toll House cookies that most other people did and, yes, these cost a little bit more, but, I promise you, they are so much better.  The recipe I use is found right on the back of the bag of chips, but I’ve made a few additions to tweak it a bit.  I’ll list the ingredients below and put an asterisk next to my additions with a short explanation about why I think they add that extra something to the recipe.

My Take on the Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Some delicious chocolate chip cookies!
Some delicious chocolate chip cookies!

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar (refined, white)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed (I prefer dark brown)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla (pure) extract
  • * 1/8 tsp. (or less) almond (pure) extract (I have a family member who cannot eat nuts due to a medical condition, but the extract gives the flavor that could be lost)
  • 2 cups Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • * 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped (I have always seen cherries used in these types of cookies, but I think that the cranberries add a special, unexpected twist)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Wisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt…set aside
  3. Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until they are creamy.  Make sure to clean down the sides of the bowl to make sure that everything is mixing evenly.
  4. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, as well as the eggs (one at a time, to ensure that they incorporate properly).
  5. Slowly blend in the dry ingredients.  You also need to clean down the sides of the bowl during this part to ensure even mixing.
  6. Mix in the chocolate chips and cranberries, ensuring that they are evenly distributed.
  7. Cover your baking sheets with parchment paper to ensure that the cookies don’t stick.
  8. Drop the dough by the tablespoon onto the baking sheets, leaving enough room so that they don’t melt into each other during baking.
  9. Bake for 9-11 minutes (time will depend on your oven, so watch the first batch closely) until they are golden brown.
  10. Cool on a rack and enjoy with a tall glass of milk or coffee, your choice!

Now that you have something sweet to have after dinner (or before, your choice), I want to share something that will make a fantastic breakfast for a Saturday morning, or any other time: buttermilk biscuits.

Like many people in the US, I grew up thinking that those biscuits that come in tubes that are found in the cold section of the grocery store were what a biscuit was supposed to be.  I can tell you, having now made my own, that I could not have been more wrong.  That’s right, I saw the light and it was buttery and flaky!  The person who I have to give credit to for opening my eyes to this is a Chef who I have a lot of respect for and one who I have learned a lot from over the years: Alton Brown.  I remember watching an episode of his show “Good Eats” when he baked buttermilk biscuits with his grandmother, Ma Mae.  I immediately started trying this recipe and finally got it down.  It is so good, and goes so great with jam, that I wanted to share it.  By the way, I always double this recipe, which is what the measurements below will reflect, because it always helps to have extra biscuits around.  Believe me, they will not last long.

Alton Brown’s Southern Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz. all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 oz. unsalted butter, chilled
  • 4 oz. shortening, chilled
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk, chilled
  • (NOTE: When I know that I’m making these, I put my butter and shortening in the freezer for an hour or two (or even overnight) to get nice and cold)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Wisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together
  3. Cube the butter and shortening, then add them to the flour.  Using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, incorporate the butter and shortening into the flour until it has the consistency of course breadcrumbs.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the buttermilk.  Using a spoon, mix the ingredients until they just come together.  Once that’s happened, knead the ingredients in the bowl until all of the flour has incorporated.
  5. Now pour out the dough onto a floured surface (I use a slab of marble) and knead it.  The method that I use is to continually fold the dough onto itself.  You do this by pushing out and then folding back toward you, repeating this for about 30 seconds to a minute.  This process will build those wonderful layers that make biscuits so amazing.
  6. Now you need to roll out the dough until it’s about an inch thick and use a round biscuit cutter to cut the biscuits out.  Place them on a sheet pan that has parchment paper on it.  When placing them on the pan, make sure that the ends just touch each other.  I don’t know why, but this really helps with the final product.
  7. Place them in the oven and bake for 17-20 minutes, but keep an eye on them since every oven is different.  When they’re done, they will be a light golden brown on top.
  8. Pull them out of the oven and pull the parchment paper, gently and carefully, onto a cooling rack.  Let them cool for a few minutes, then get out the jam and make the coffee.  It’s time for breakfast (lunch, dinner, snack, etc.)!

As I said throughout this post, these two recipes are not ones that I created.  However, they are two that I make all the time and I’m thankful that I found them.  Life just wouldn’t be the same without some great baked goods.  Now excuse me as I go and exercise!

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Your biscuits look wonderful!

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