Saturday, May 9, 2009

Choosing Between Your Children

When I handed around the shortcake, I got the inevitable question.
"What's in this?"
"Butter, sugar, flour-"
"Ok, you had me at butter and sugar!"

It's really no secret by now that I love butter and sugar too. I greatly prefer cookies to cakes because the butter and sugar to flour ratio is higher. A brownie sitting next to a cupcake and I go for the brownie every time. But don't make me choose between cookies and ice cream. It's like choosing between your children, it's simply impossible.

So today I'm going to talk about both my favorite cookie recipe and one of my favorite ice cream recipes. Desserts are back on the table, and in case you think I'm not eating my vegetables I'll have you know I had a hearty serving of brussel sprouts yesterday. Braised in cream of course. (It's either that or roasted with bacon and I believe the cream has more redeeming qualities.) But I digress.

I'll start with my favorite cookie recipe because at one time it had me bemused and befuddled. My roommates and I had two recipes with the same name: Chocolate Espresso Cookies. One was in Bon Appetit and one was in Gourmet. One recipe was sublime and the other slime. Well it didn't taste bad but it didn't produce a nice cookie, it just made a mess on the baking sheet. The problem was that my roommates and I had made them both and didn't know which had given us the amazing cookie and which has given us the mess.
Only one thing to do: make more cookies.

The correct recipe (from Gourmet) turns out these beautiful cookies - soft, chocolaty, only a hint of espresso for those of us who don't like it but enough to enhance the chocolate flavor, and a shiny, crackly top. No one can eat just one. That's because the recipe starts by having you melt a lot of chocolate with a lot of butter. After you've mixed that with your eggs, sugar, and espresso, you just add a bit of flour, salt, and baking powder and load it up with more chocolate in the form of chips. This is one of those never fail recipes. Everyone loves it. You just can't go wrong with that much butter and chocolate.

The only possible thing that could make a cookie like this better is to top it with ice cream.

A girl with an ice cream maker is not to be ignored. She will tease you and tempt you with creamy, unusual delicious flavors like blueberry cheesecake, brown sugar, or lemon custard. There will be forays into peanut butter, pumpkin, peaches and cream, caramel, and vanilla bean. Ultimately she will take you down with a peppermint ice cream the color of cotton candy eaten before a carnival ride or the Pepto Bismol taken immediately after. There's just something about a pink ice cream that begs to be eaten in abundance, leaving sticky pink smears around your lips and drips on your shirt.

I got the peppermint ice cream recipe from my friend Ann who got it from her sister-in-law. It's also good with brownies - really anything chewy and chocolately will do. Maybe not a tootsie roll though...

As for the shortbread recipe that won accolades for its butter and sugar proportions, I'm still working out whether it's the best I can find. I have a feeling my efforts will be appreciated.

Chocolate Espresso Cookies (Gourmet)
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons finely ground dark-roast coffee beans, such as Italian-roast
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease 2 large heavy baking sheets.

In a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup chocolate chips, and butter, stirring until smooth, and remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs, sugar, and ground coffee on high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beaters are lifted, about 3 minutes, and beat in chocolate mixture. Into mixture sift in flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until just combined. Stir in remaining chocolate chips.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto baking sheets and bake in batched in middle of oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until puffed and cracked on top. Cool cookies in baking sheets 1 minute and transfer to racks to cool completely.

Peppermint Ice Cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp peppermint extract
3/4 cup crushed hard peppermint candies
Red food coloring optional

Whisk the milk and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Stir in cream, vanilla and peppermint extract. Thicken in ice cream maker for 25-30 min, then add crushed peppermint in final 5 minutes of mixing. Freeze for several hours before serving.

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