Sunday, October 18, 2015

S'mores Cookies

With fall rolling along and a new set of people to try to impress with my baking skills (my new front end engineering classmates), it was time to head back in the kitchen and bake like crazy. Thanks to a brief break from our hectic coding schedules on Thursday, I was able to generate insane amounts of sugar to compliment all the caffeine we were ingesting to help us all work on our tachycardias.

Would my decision to forgo the traditional autumnal pumpkin spice pay off, or would my new computer savvy classmates call me a n00b and write me off?

S'mores Cookies
Adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker
Servings: 28-36 cookies
Time: 5 hours (inactive for 4)
So much goodness 

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour,
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 5-6 full sized)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 heaping cup miniature marshmallows
1 heaping cup milk chocolate chips
Additional milk chocolate and marshmallows for topping (optional)

Have you ever thought to yourself "There's now possible way cookie dough could be any better."? Well you were wrong.
  1. Whisk the flour, graham cracker, baking soda, and salt together in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Cream the butter and both sugars together in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes at medium speed). Be sure to scrape down the sides halfway through.
  3. Add in the egg, honey, and vanilla until well combined. 
  4. Mix the dry ingredients in with the butter until the cookie dough forms. 
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips and marshmallows until evenly distributed. 
  6. Roll the dough into a large ball, wrap tightly in saran wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. 
  7. Feel like a kid on Christmas eve as you wait for those four hours to pass.
  8. Preheat the oven to 325 F. 
  9. Roll up the dough into ~ 1-2 tbsp sized balls and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper about one inch apart. Be careful not to have too much marshmallow per ball as this can lead to some weird looking cookies once the marshmallows melt.
  10. Bake for 14-18 minutes until the edges start to set and the cookies brown.
  11. Keep on the baking sheet and let cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Then use a spatula to transfer them to the wire racks directly to finish cooling.
  12. If you wish, top with melted milk chocolate chips (microwave for 15-30 seconds at a time until smooth) and a marshmallow. Let set in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
I highly recommend the super s'mores variety for minimal extra effort.
There was so much to love about these cookies, which I will place firmly toward the top of all cookies that I have made. The cookie base itself is a hybrid of s'mores and the classic Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe with graham cracker crumbs taking the place of some of the flour and marshmallows fighting the chocolate chips for interior real estate. Speaking of the marshmallows, aside from adding some amazing gooeyness, they also caramelized nicely in the oven leading to additional unexpected deliciousness (but do be careful not to have too many marshmallows per cookie or they will look like a mess). While I made two versions, one with additional s'mores topping and one without, I would definitely recommend really hammering home all the campfire appeal with the additional toppings. Without much extra effort from making standard chocolate chip cookies (I know melting chocolate in the microwave seems pretty taxing), you can produce a treat that holds its own against just about anything else and brings you back to your childhood.

Hiding the non chocolate covered ones on the bottom.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Search for the Perfect Biscuit: Cheddar Green Onion Buttermilk

Living in the South means constantly being in search of the holy grail of biscuits. While I was hoping to run an experiment similar to the Oreo frosting permutations, I was seemingly at a loss for what aspect to vary in a biscuit. Everyone knows buttermilk biscuits are the best, so it would be fruitless to test with and without it. In the end, I decided on a much more subtle yet important factor in the make-up of a biscuit- the flour.

Would normal, run-of-the-mill all-purpose flour prove to be the most versatile and best or would the lighter White Lilly flour prove advantageous? Or would any of it matter so long as I ended up with a belly full of biscuits?

Cheddar Green Onion Buttermilk Biscuits
Adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook
Servings: 10-12 biscuits
Time: 45 minutes
The only prep pic I took. Note the light White Lily!

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup cold buttermilk, plus more for topping
1 egg
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, chopped into small cubes
3 tbsp green onion, diced
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
Coarse sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. 
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together.
  4. In yet another bowl, toss the cheese and green onions together. 
  5. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
  6. Stir in the cheese mixture.
  7. Create a well in the center of the flour and pour in the buttermilk mix.
  8. Toss the flour mixture together until the dough comes together. 
  9. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 8-10 minutes then form a 1 1/2 inch thick circle. 
  10. Cut the dough into circles then put place them onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. 
  11. Brush with buttermilk and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  12. Forget to take any pictures of the actual dough. 
The White Lily Biscuits. Note: all the extra burnt cheddar around the edges was already in my belly.
The difference between the two was readily apparent from the dough itself. The White Lilly produced a far more moist dough that had to have extra flour added just to be manageable, while the all-purpose flour was almost too dry. Since this wasn't a strictly controlled experiment and I was looking for a workable dough, the end results were pretty similar.
The all-purpose flour biscuits that were more porous thanks to having to add more buttermilk.
Both biscuits had great cheddar flavor (especially the burnt bits that I removed to at least make my pictures semi pretty) balanced nicely by the green onion (fyi: the original recipe calls for chives). The biscuits were light and bouncy and held surprisingly well as the week went along, but they did not approach the greatest biscuit ever. These were ideally suited for dipping into soup or gravy, but, on their own, they were a little lacking likely from their height deficiency (a problem I am all too familiar with). While this mini-experiment may not have produced any real results, it did at least set me on the path for my next biscuit challenge- varying baking soda/baking powder to achieve the best results for either standard biscuits or breakfast sandwiches.