Saturday, April 6, 2024

Soft Cheese Crackers from Scratch


Marilyn's Cheese Crackers from Scratch



These little gems are a family favorite. They're rich, salty, cheesy. Mmm. They're kind of like a cheese cookie, if that makes sense. Crisp on the edges, soft and chewy in the middle. We usually make them using a small jar of Kraft Old English Sharp Cheddar Cheese Spread, but I since it's really just made of cheddar cheese, I thought I'd try using some block Cabot sharp cheddar I have in my fridge. And it worked beautifully. Same gorgeous results without any preservatives. 

These are great for a decadent breakfast or brunch treat, afternoon snack, or appetizers for a party. 

Heads up, this recipe requires a food processor. No way around that.

(Click here for original recipe with the Kraft jarred cheese spread.)

Marilyn's Cheese Crackers from Scratch

Ingredients:
  • 5 ounces quality sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Place grated cheese in the bowl of a food processor and process until nearly a paste. It probably won't completely turn to paste, but will sort of bunch up into a sort of dry cottage cheese texture. 
  • Add the butter and salt, and process until smooth.
  • Add flour, pulse a few times and then process until flour is incorporated. 
  • Remove blade, carefully scraping off any dough and then incorporate any flour or cheese left of sides of bowl.
  • Make balls using about 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of dough and place at least 2 inches apart on baking sheet.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 11-12 minutes or until puffed and well browned on edges.
  • Allow to cool 5 minutes or so before eating.
  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container and consume within 1 day.

Makes 20 crackers


Cheese, butter and salt processed smooth

After mixing in flour

I scooped dough with cookie scoop before rolling smooth




Almost like a cheesy macaron












Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Browned Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

 

Browned Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I'd like to say I've finally found my ultimate favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, but I think I may have said something like that before...several times...so I'll just say this one is my current favorite. I took the other Levain Style Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe I have here and tweaked it to omit the need for self-rising flour (since I'd been mixing it up on the side anyway with ingredients that were duplicated in the recipe) and I've browned a quarter of the butter. And I've given up on bagged chocolate chips for the time being and am sticking with my favorite Dove Dark Chocolate. They're worth every penny and every minute of unwrapping and chopping them up. 

So what we have here is a relatively dense, tender, soft, chewy, chocolatey, buttery, nutty chocolate chip cookie. If you eat them fresh, they're also melty with a crisp edge. Mmmm. 

Browned Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

    Adapted from Cupcake Jemma's Recipe on Youtube

Ingredients: 

  • 230 g cold butter, divided
  • 160 g granulated sugar
  • 160 g brown sugar
  • 450 g dark chocolate chunks (I used Dove Dark Chocolate)
  • 200 g walnut pieces (optional)
  • 430 g all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • (Scroll to the photos at the end to see what this unconventional process looks like.)
  • The night before you plan to mix up the dough, brown four tablespoons of the butter. Place in a glass container, and either refrigerate or allow to sit at room temperature.
  • Beat the eggs and vanilla together in a small-ish bowl and set aside.
  • Cut the cold butter into tablespoons sized chunks and then add that and the browned butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low for about a minute, just to break up the butter--do not cream the butter. 
  • Add the granulated and brown sugar to the butter and mix again on low/medium low until little nuggets of butter & sugar form--again, do not cream this mixture. (If you refrigerated the browned butter you may need to cut it into smaller pieces.)
  • Add the chocolate chunks and walnut pieces (if desired), and mix again just to incorporate the chocolate chunks and walnuts.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a whisk until completely mixed. 
  • Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/chocolate/walnut mixture in the mixing bowl and mix on low until combined, about 30-45 seconds. It will still be dry and sandy looking.
  • Add the vanilla to the egg mixture and then add that to the mixture. Mix on low/medium low until dough starts to come together, taking care not to mix too long.
  • Using a large cookie scoop or a large spoon, make 60 gram gently formed balls of dough -- it's best if you don't pack the dough into a tight ball. Then flatten each ball into a disk that's about an inch thick.
  • Cover and freeze dough disks at least 90 minutes before baking.Preheat oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place in the oven to get hot while the oven preheats.
  • When pan and oven are heated, remove the pan from the oven, place frozen dough disks on pan allowing a couple of inches between them.
  • Bake at 360 degrees for about 14-15 minutes, until puffed and starting to crack. Take care to not over-bake. Underbaked is better than over-baked.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet at least five minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. Alternately, if you have a rimless baking sheet, you can slide the parchment with the baked cookie sheets onto a cooling rack to cool until ready to eat, about 5-10 minutes. This is what I try to do so the cookies will not continue to bake on the hot baking sheet.
  • Place unbaked dough disks in a zip top freezer bag and store in the freezer until you want more cookies. 
  • Store baked and cooled cookies in an airtight container.
  • Heat cooled cookies in the microwave on high for 10 seconds if you want to melt the chocolate.


Butter & browned butter are mixed a bit, but not creamed.

Add sugars to the butters & mix until...

Butter & sugar mostly mixed until it's an almost uniform chunkiness
with some chunks of butter remaining.

Add the chocolate chunks and walnuts. Yes. Different.

Then mix in the dry ingredients until it looks like what you see below.


Lastly, add the eggs and vanilla.

Mix until you have something that looks like this.

Weigh out 60 g portions.

Form into a thick disk, making sure to not make it too tight.

Place on a wax-paper lined pan, cover and freeze until solid.

Before baking.

After baking.

I actually baked these like a minute too long. Still good though.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Toffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Toffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies


I've been trying new flavors in the basic Levain-style cookie recipe, and today it involves mixing toffee chunks in with chunks of Dove Dark Chocolate. I have to say this is a winner: tender, melt-in-your-mouth cookie with crisp, flavorful toffee and just enough bits of chocolate. 

I made the toffee from scratch, because I can, but you can also purchase Heath toffee bits, and I'm sure they'd be fine. I wanted better than "fine," though, so I went the extra mile. Click here to see the recipe for the toffee bits/chunks.

These turned out quite a bit flatter than I thought they would, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm sure if I were to add nuts to these, they'd not be so flat, but today is a no-nut day. I only baked up six of these and plan to bake up the rest next week to take to work. 

Toffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies

    Adapted from Cupcake Jemma's Recipe on Youtube

Ingredients: 

  • 237 g unsalted butter, cold (2 sticks plus 1/2 tablespoon*), divided
  • 160 g granulated sugar
  • 160 g brown sugar
  • 250 g dark chocolate chunks (I used Dove Dark Chocolate)
  • 230 g toffee pieces (homemade or store-bought, but homemade is better)
  • 430 g all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • (Scroll to the photos at the end to see what this unconventional process looks like.)
  • The night before you plan to mix up the dough, brown 65 g of the butter (1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon), place in a glass container, and refrigerate overnight. 
  • Beat the eggs and vanilla together in a small-ish bowl and set aside.
  • Cut the cold butter into tablespoons sized chunks and then add that and the browned butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low for about a minute, just to break up the butter--do not cream the butter. 
  • Add the granulated and brown sugar to the butter and mix again on low/medium low until little nuggets of butter & sugar form--again, do not cream this mixture. Note: you may need to get a butter knife and cut the cold browned butter into smaller pieces at this point. Mine was too firm and needed cutting.
  • Add the chocolate chunks and toffee pieces (if desired), and mix again just to incorporate the chocolate chunks and toffee.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a whisk until completely mixed. 
  • Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/chocolate/toffee mixture in the mixing bowl and mix on low until combined, about 30-45 seconds. It will still be dry and sandy looking.
  • Add the vanilla to the egg mixture and then add that to the mixture. Mix on low/medium low until dough starts to come together, taking care not to mix too long.
  • Using a large cookie scoop or a large spoon, make 60 gram gently formed balls of dough -- it's best if you don't pack the dough into a tight ball. Then flatten each ball into a disk that's about an inch thick.
  • Cover and freeze dough disks at least 90 minutes before baking.Preheat oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place in the oven to get hot while the oven preheats.
  • When pan and oven are heated, remove the pan from the oven, place frozen dough disks on pan allowing a couple of inches between them.
  • Bake at 360 degrees for about 14-15 minutes, until puffed and starting to crack. Take care to not over-bake. Underbaked is better than over-baked.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet at least five minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. Alternately, if you have a rimless baking sheet, you can slide the parchment with the baked cookie sheets onto a cooling rack to cool until ready to eat, about 5-10 minutes. This is what I try to do so the cookies will not continue to bake on the hot baking sheet.
  • Place unbaked dough disks in a zip top freezer bag and store in the freezer until you want more cookies. 
  • Store baked and cooled cookies in an airtight container.
  • Heat cooled cookies in the microwave on high for 10 seconds if you want to melt the chocolate.
Makes about 30 large cookies

* When you brown the butter, you lose some of the water in that process, so I added another 1/2 tablespoon to make up for it. I don't think the cookies will be ruined if you don't add that extra 1/2 tablespoon of butter, though.


Break up the butter

Mix in the sugars.
Check for large browned butter chunks and cut as needed.

Add the chocolate and toffee


Mix in the dry ingredients before adding the eggs & vanilla
(forgot to snap a pic of that)

Dough is all mixed and ready to be formed into discs

Discs are frozen solid before baking







Toffee Bits




As I was making Toffee Chocolate Chunk Cookies today, I realized that I don't have a recipe just for toffee bits here on the blog, so here it is now. 

Once you've made toffee like this a few times, it's not that big of a deal to whip it up -- unless your candy thermometer has lost its mojo, which mine tend to do after about 3-5 batches of toffee. Fortunately, I've gotten a sense of what the toffee looks like when it's done, so I can forego the thermometer in a pinch. I have lots of instant read thermometers around here too, so that's what I used today when the candy looked ready.

These toffee bits can be used for cookies, ice cream, chocolate & nut clusters, or just to enjoy as a sweet treat. Sure you could buy a bag of Heath Toffee Chips, but I really think these are better.

Note: I'm going to try to get a video of the toffee making process uploaded here soon. 

Toffee Bits

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Equipment:
  • Medium saucepan, heavy-bottomed
  • Silicone spatula
  • Candy thermometer
  • Parchment paper
  • 9"x13" glass pan
Instructions:

Line the glass pan with parchment and set on stove next to where you will be working.

Place a small piece of parchment near your stove so you can place the hot thermometer there when you're done with it.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and add the butter.

When butter has almost completely melted, add the sugars, taking care not to get any on the sides the pan.

Stir the butter and sugars to combine. Continue to stir until all of the butter is incorporated with the sugar--this may take a little time.

When the mixture starts to bubble, insert the candy thermometer and continue stirring, almost constantly, making sure to scrape the corners of the pan, around the edges, and behind the thermometer, moving the thermometer as needed.

When the candy reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit, or the hard crack stage, turn off the heat, remove the thermometer to the small piece of parchment and then pour and scrape the candy into the prepared glass pan. If you notice the candy on the bottom of the pan has gotten very dark brown, do not scrape it into the toffee pan, but scrape it onto the parchment with the thermometer. 

Either place the hot pan on a cool burner or carefully add cold water to the pan to cool it down before placing it in the sink--unless you have a stainless steel sink that can take the heat.

Allow the toffee to cool completely before chopping it up into pieces/bits and then place in an airtight container to use later. 

I wouldn't keep mine for more than a week or so.

Makes about 230 grams of toffee bits




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