Bake Sale Chocolate Chip Cookies

by Caroline

On a recent episode of Top Chef: Just Desserts (yes, I watch it, and I watch Top Chef, too), the contestants were asked to make items for a bake sale. One made a milk chocolate ginger pudding. Another made strawberry shortcake. Have these folks never been to a bake sale?!

The winning recipe, for a chocolate chip walnut cookie, is happily traditional and looks delicious. But this is the cookie I made earlier in the week, pre-Top Chef, and while I know (I know) we don’t really need another recipe for chocolate chip cookies (the one on the back of the chocolate chip bag really works just fine) I had to give this one a try, and I have to say, it’s particularly good. So the next time your kids are clamoring for chocolate chip cookies, get out more butter than usual, and then delight your kids by letting them dig out the dough with an ice cream scoop. You won’t be disappointed.

Eli’s Super Cake

by Caroline

It’s been a heady time for the youngest member of our family. In the months since he turned five, late last spring, he has learned to swim, learned to ride a bike without training wheels, graduated from preschool, started kindergarten, joined a soccer team — and scored two goals in his first game. (Not that anyone’s keeping score.) He has also done something that, as he has said, proudly and repeatedly, “the forty-three year old in the family [that would be me] has never done:” invented a cake recipe.

Coincidentally, he did it at just the same age his big brother invented a cake recipe:

. But Eli was two when that happened; he has no recollection of it. Apparently, for some kids, hanging out with their mom making weekly batches of cookies and muffins translates into the desire to abandon the cookbook and strike out independently. It makes sense, even though it didn’t happen to me; I helped my mom bake bread every week when I was small, and was sous chef to thousands of batches of cookies before I mostly took over family cookie production when I was eleven or twelve. But although I may combine three or four recipes, although I am casual with my measurements and I tinker, it has never once even occurred to me to just get out the flour and bake without a map. I always start with a recipe.

When asked what had inspired him, Eli said simply, “I was in the mood for cake.” I didn’t coach him on ingredients or method at all, I just wrote out exactly what he dictated (though some of the numbers, and the method, he wrote out himself):

When we had it all written out, it was time to get out the ingredients and start baking; I’ve been through this before, after all, when Ben invented a bread recipe (one that looked likelier to turn out well than that cake), and knew there was no question of trying it out. Besides, it seemed like it might taste pretty good.

We did endure one conflict, over the sugar. Eli, quite reasonably, listed it with the “dry stuff” and wanted to mix it in with the flour, baking soda and salt. I reminded him that usually the butter and the sugar are creamed together. He nodded and agreed — yes, he remembered that — and insisted on doing it his way. I really wanted his cake to turn out well, and so I pushed back. He stuck to his guns. And I, despite the little voice in my head telling me to just let the boy make his cake already (because when have I ever invented a cake? Right. Never.) started to insist a little more strongly. Eli started to cry. And then, thank goodness, I shut up and hugged him and let him make his cake the way he wanted: “Pour wet stuff in. Mix 10 sec. Pour dry stuff in. Mix 10 sec.” At the end of which process it looked like this:

You might want to mix your batter a little longer — I won’t tell — but maybe not. Because despite how lumpy and weird our batter looked, the finished cake looked like this:

We’ve made it twice now to prove it’s no fluke, and I have to say, the cake rocks — it’s moist and a little chewy from the honey, and it’s not too sweet nor too salty (amazing how the sugar and salt kind of cancel each other out). We bake it in a standard glass lasagna pan, and the only deviation we’ve made from the recipe is to bake it for 24 minutes rather than the prescribed 12, but we do set the oven to 360. I recommend you do, too.

Frozen Hot Chocolate

By Lisa

One of the magical things about trips to New York as a kid were trips to the whimsical Serendipity 3 after seeing a show or going to a museum.  We went with family, we went with friends, and now, when we’re back east (which is not so often), we take our own kids. It’s not that the food is that great, or that it’s an easy place to take kids.  In fact,the food is sort of average, and the wait can stretch well past an hour. In the cold and dark. On the street. With tired and hungry and cranky kids.  But the place is full of charm and eccentricity and serendipitous gifts on the first floor, and it’s magical if you’re a kid. The foot long hot dogs really are a foot long and they serve something called Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, which is worth the wait in itself. Even for the grown-ups.

Frozen Hot Chocolate is rich and creamy and icy and made with a deep, dark mix of incredible chocolate. It’s served in an enormous goblet with a pillow of whipped cream and chocolate shavings.  It’s legendary.  For years, it was nearly impossible to replicate.  Now the recipe is readily available, and I decided this summer to introduce my kids to it with the recipe provided by the restaurant and available on Epicurious. With a little more searching, you can turn up this recipe that has a more particular list of chocolates. But the generic one is terrific and made with things you most likely already have in your house.  This recipe really makes enough for 4, but if you really want to recreate the Serendipity experience, use if to serve 2–or one enormous goblet to share.

Needless to say, the kids loved it. The husband and best friend were pretty happy after dinner, too.

Strawbery Balsamic Cookie Crunch Ice Cream

by Caroline

I usually don’t have much trouble getting my kids into the kitchen; we make sushi together, we make muffins, we make cakes and pancakes — mostly I bake with the kids, because mostly I bake, period. But anything I’m making, they’re welcome to participate, and they’re typically eager to help.

Still, when a link to this article about cooking with kids appeared in my inbox, I couldn’t help clicking on it; how are others getting their kids into the kitchen, I wondered? What are they making?

Well, among other good cooking projects, they are making ice cream! And so on a recent cold and foggy day, we made ice cream, because it is summer and summer means ice cream, and because this recipe (from High Flavor, Low Labor) sounded so delicious to me.

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon strawberry jam
10 cream-filled chocolate cookies (such as Oreos or Newman-O’s)
1 pint vanilla ice cream

If you’re starting with store-bought ice cream, take it out of the freezer and let it sit in a big bowl while you start preparing the other ingredients; you want it to be soft so that you can stir them in easily. If you’re starting with homemade, prepare the other ingredients while the ice cream is mixing in your ice cream freezer, and then stir them in at the end.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the vinegar and jam. Simmer, stirring often, until reduced by half, about 8 minutes.

Eli says don’t stand too close; the fumes of the simmering vinegar are strong!

Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place the cookies in a zip-close plastic bag and gently pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin to break into small chunks.

This is, of course, a great job for kids:

Drizzle the vinegar into the ice cream and mix until blended.

Mix in the cookies.

Stir well, and then stir one more time to make sure the balsamic syrup is well distributed. Dump the ice cream into a container with a tight lid and return to the freezer until firm, 2 to 3 hours.


Classic Oatmeal Cookies

by Caroline

There is nothing remarkable about this cookie recipe except, perhaps, that I have been following it faithfully for over 35 years, and if you read this blog periodically or know me at all, you know that I am always tweaking recipes for baked goods. But why mess with a classic? This is the recipe in the Joy of Cooking, the recipe my mom taught me years ago, and although I don’t buy the same kind of oats anymore or bake cookies with my mom very often (though my dad and the boys bake cookies together now), when I want an oatmeal cookie, this is how I do it.

Preheat the oven to 350 and get the butter and eggs out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature.

Whisk together in a bowl:
1 3/4 c flour
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon

In another bowl, beat until well blended:
1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 t vanilla

Stir flour mixture into butter mixture until smooth.
Add 3 1/2 c old fashioned rolled oats
Add 1 c mini chocolate chips (ever since making those flourless peanut butter cookies, I’m using mini chocolate chips in all my cookies — a bit more chocolate in every bite!)

Scoop tablespoons-full of cookies onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, space them 2 inches apart, and bake for 6-9 minutes, rotating the pan for even browning.