Blueberry Crumb Bars

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Since the birth of my daughter and the end of my military service, I've been home so much that one would think I would have done a great deal of baking. And I did make (and quickly consume) a few dishes in the first couple weeks I was home. But the truth is that despite, or because of, my robust sweet tooth, baking has always been more of a social endeavor for me. I bake, and then take the baked goods to my office or send them with my wife to hers. Not only does this curry favor with our co-workers, it prevents us from gorging ourselves on sugary goodness.

Still, sometimes I can't resist the urge. This is never more true than when the grocery store runs a special on blueberries, which are dear to my heart but not my wallet. So when Whole Foods had cartons at 2 for $5, I bought them first and figured out what to make after. There's a coffee cake recipe that I've made a dozen times, and muffins are the obvious choice. But I wanted to try something different, and these Blueberry Crumb Bars were just the ticket. A few adjustments based on the All Recipes reviews and we were in business:

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup shortening
1 egg
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 pinch cinnamon
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tsp. cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 375F. Grease and flour 9x13 inch pan. Stir together the white and brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Blend in the shortening, egg, and vanilla extract. Divide the dough in half and set aside one half for later. Add the water and lemon juice to the remaining dough and stir until just moist. Spread the wet dough evenly in the pan, and bake for 5 minutes.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch, then add the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust, and crumble the dough previously set aside over the berries. Bake for 45 minutes, then cool completely before cutting.

Old-Fashioned Rum-Raisin Cookies

rum_raisin.jpgSunday's oatmeal lacie misstep was sufficiently frustrating that it took not one, but two further baking endeavors before I felt redeemed that afternoon. After taking the second batch of fudgy macadamia cookies out of the oven, I flipped through the Betty Crocker Cookie Book looking for something without chocolate. Hard as it is for me to understand, there are apparently those out there who simply do not like chocolate, and I try to accommodate their tastes when possible. After flipping past a series of whole wheat cookies (which may put to the test my stated goal of baking every recipe in the book), my search was rewarded with a recipe for rum-raisin cookies.

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rum
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Any recipe involving rum is okay in my book. Some would say that a bit of rum extract mixed with water will suffice. I say if you have a chance to pour rum into a mixing bowl, take it. While either light or dark rum will work, I think the richness of a dark rum is better suited for most baking needs. I've been loyal to Myers's Dark since my first attempt at tiramisu; it also worked well in last year's eggnog bread.

Heat the raisins, water and rum until boiling in a small saucepan, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered 30 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated. Let them cool for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375F. Cream the sugar and butter together, and then stir in the egg. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and stir until blended. Stir in the raisins last.

Using a cookie scoop to ensure the cookies have a uniform size (which ensures uniform baking), place the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes (9 for darker baking sheets, 11 for light ones), then cool on wire racks.

This is the first time I have made cookies with raisins but not oatmeal, and I was pleasantly surprised by the results. Simmering the raisins in rum and water gave them a rich flavor, and left them so tender as to almost melt in the mouth. I think raisins are still best when accompanied by oatmeal and brown sugar; perhaps a rum-raisin oatmeal cookie is in order.

Fudgy Macadamia Cookies

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As I mentioned on Sunday, my ongoing effort to bake the Betty Crocker Cookie Book from front to back hit a snag with some oatmeal lacies that simply could not be pried off the cookie sheet without crumbling. Failures in the kitchen are always frustrating, but the best way to overcome them is with an immediate success. So l took stock of my pantry and ventured into another recipe from the book:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cream the sugar and butter together, and then stir in the vanilla, chocolate, and eggs. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir until blended. Stir in the macadamia nuts.

Using a cookie scoop to ensure the cookies have a uniform size (which ensures uniform baking), place the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes (9 for darker baking sheets, 11 for light ones), cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks.

As the name of this recipe indicates, these cookies have a slightly dense, chewy consistency. My wife's first reaction was to compare them to little brownie bites, which I'd say is pretty accurate, and it is a flavor well-matched by the subtle sweetness of the macadamia nuts.

Oatmeal Lacies

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First of all, yes, I am still alive. My wife and I spent a very relaxing week in NYC early this month and my reading and baking, and thus my blogging, have simply not caught up. I'll have some pictures from our trip up later in the week. My ongoing effort to bake the Betty Crocker Cookie Book took one step back and two steps forward today. The oatmeal lacies, lovely as they appear, were almost impossible to peel off the parchment paper and serve. Whether they needed to be left in a few minutes beyond the recommended time, or what, I don't know. Fortunately the two recipes I chose to redeem myself with, fudge macadamia cookies and rum raisin cookies both turned out quite well. More on them later in the week.

Fresh Mint-Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Every so often I muster up the benevolence to prepare a recipe that I know I will not personally enjoy. Lemon bars come to mind, as does any dish with sweet potatoes. My ongoing effort to bake the Betty Crocker Cookie Book from front to back led me straight to yet another such recipe.

I simply do not like the taste of mint and chocolate together, be it via Andes (which my grandmother always had around the house) or the Girl Scouts (Thin Mints are their bestseller). But I certainly was not going to led my own distaste for the combination stand in the way of my baking quest:

1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 tbsp. finely chopped mint leaves
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups mint-chocolate chips

Ostensibly, Hershey's sells mint-chocolate chips, but I could not find them in any local grocery store. I ordered mine (along with some cinnamon chips and maple chips) from the Prepared Pantry; they shipped immediately and got to me in 4 business days.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cream the sugar and butter together, and then stir in the mint and eggs. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and stir until blended. I found the dough to be a bit crumbly at this point, so I added 2 tbsp. of milk; your mileage may vary. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Using a cookie scoop to ensure the cookies have a uniform size (which ensures uniform baking), place the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes (11 for darker baking sheets, 13 for light ones), then cool on wire racks.

As I said, I would not enjoy even the world's greatest mint chocolate chip cookie, so I did not bother trying these. My wife generously offered herself as a test subject, and with her approval the cookies were split between our offices. For once, I did not have my own opinion to compare against others, but I can say these went even faster than usual in my office. Certainly a nice way to add a twist to an old standby.

Strawberry (Banana) Bread

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My wife and I stopped by the Whole Foods on Saturday to pick up a few things and saw that strawberries were on sale. I think she wanted to eat them fresh, but I was sneaky and used them for one of my favorite quick bread recipes, which comes via AllRecipes:

2 cups fresh strawberries
3 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9x5" loaf pans. If you have time, toast the pecans on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Slice strawberries into a bowl, sprinkle them with a bit of sugar, and set aside.

Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in large bowl. Stir oil, vanilla, and eggs into strawberries. We had a couple of bananas getting rather ripe on the counter, so I mashed and mixed them in with the strawberries as well. Stir strawberry mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Stir in pecans and pour half of the batter into each pan.

Bake 45-50 minutes, cool in pan for 10 minutes, then cool completely on wire rack.

For my purposes, an excellent feature of this recipe is that it makes two loaves. One for my office, and one for my wife's office. This bread was very popular in both.

Brown Sugar Cookies

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Three and a half months in the desert had me craving some time in the kitchen, and I've made good use of all our new appliances this week. This recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated, via Nosh With Me:

7/8 cup butter
1/4 cup white sugar
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 cups plus 2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

The secret to these delicious cookies is to brown the butter. Heat 5/8 cup (10 tbsp.) of butter in a pan over medium-high heat until melted, then cook until dark golden, 1-3 minutes. Pour the browned butter into a bowl, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of butter until melted, and then let cool for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, mix white sugar and 1/4 cup of brown sugar.

Mix flour, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl. Add remaining 1 3/4 cups of brown sugar and salt to butter and mix until smooth. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla to butter and mix. Stir wet ingredients into flour until just combined.

Using a cookie scoop to ensure the cookies have a uniform size (which ensures uniform baking), scoop the dough into balls and roll them in the sugar mixture. Then place the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spaced 2 inches apart. Bake 12-14 minutes, then cool on wire racks.

Eggnog Bread

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This twist on a holiday favorite comes from Allrecipes with a single adjustment:

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup eggnog
2 teaspoons dark rum
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the bottom of a 9"x5" loaf pan with butter/flour or spray. I prefer a spray with flour added, like Baker's Joy or Pam Baking.

Blend together the eggs, eggnog, rum, sugar, vanilla and butter. The original recipe calls for rum extract, which is fine. But the real stuff is better; I recommend Myers Dark.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add to eggnog mixture and stir just enough to moisten; pour into prepared pan.

Bake bread in large pan for 40 to 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. That is a pretty wide spread, so be very sure your tester comes out clean. Otherwise the center will sink as it cools. Cool for 10 minutes, and remove from pan. Cool completely, wrap tightly and store in refrigerator.

I made mini-loaf versions of this last year for my holiday gift bags for my office, and they were a big hit. This year I doubled the recipe and made two full loafs, one for my office bake sale and one for my wife's office. Festive and delicious!

Chocolate Cheesecake Pecan Bars

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This recipe comes from Paula Deen, via Bake or Break:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups finely chopped pecans
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
4 eggs
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 13″x 9″ baking dish with foil, then butter/flour or spray foil. I prefer a spray with flour added, like Baker's Joy or Pam Baking.

Combine flour and 3/4 cup of the brown sugar. Cut in the softened butter until crumbly. Stir in 1/2 cup of the chopped pecans. Press mixture into bottom of pan, and bake for 10 minutes.

Using an elecric mixer on medium speed, combine cream cheese and white sugar until smooth. Add 1 egg and beat until combined. Stir in the chocolate and vanilla extract, then pour over baked crust. Bake for 15 minutes, and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup of brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, and 3 eggs. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans. Pour over the cream cheese mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until center is set. Cool completely in pan. Cut into squares and serve.

Though the recipe does not call for it, I recommend refrigerating the bars for at least an hour before serving. I find that any desert that involves a cheesecake layer is improved by a brief chill, which lets the cheesecake set further than cooling to room temperature allows. But these are delicious either way.

Vanilla Brownies

Today is my first day back in Kuwait, but before I left I notched two more recipes out of the Betty Crocker Cookie Book. The initial plan was to bake each recipe from front to back, but I think my colleagues were in danger of chocolate chip cookie overload. So, I decided to skip ahead to the bars and brownies; I'll go back to cookies once I get back to the States. The first recipe I made was the "Fudgy Saucepan Brownies." They turned out okay, but not worth publicizing. The other recipe, "Vanilla Brownies," was much better.

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This is not a blondie recipe; blondies are like chocolate chip cookies in brownie form. This is actually a vanilla flavored brownie, with vanilla frosting. The recipe calls for vanilla milk chips; these are often called white or white chocolate chips, but make sure that the chips you buy are made from cocoa butter. The Nestle White Morsels that my grocery store carries are not, so I went with the store brand.

1/2 cup butter
1 package (10 oz.) white chocolate chips (1 2/3 cups)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat your oven to 350F. Heat the white chocolate chips and butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over low heat, just until melted. Stir frequently, as white chocolate will burn if it starts feeling abandoned. Remove the pan from heat and let it cool. Stir in the flour, sugar, vanilla, salt, and eggs. Mix in the nuts (I used pecans, toasted in the oven for 10 minutes).

Spread the batter into a greased and floured a 9x13 pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, cool completely, and then spread the vanilla frosting (just mix these four easy ingredients):

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk

These were just as easy as your run-of-the-mill brownie recipe, but serve as a welcome change of pace. The browned edges have a caramel taste, and the homemade frosting adds a nice bit of moisture and give the end product a nicely finished appearance.

Giant Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie

Like I said last week, with a new oven, and a new cookbook, I could not resist the urge to do a lot of baking. The next recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookie Book was the aptly named "Giant Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie."

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The recipe calls for almond brickle bits; the only I have ever seen are Heath Toffee Bits, but I can understand that General Mills did not want to advertise a Hershey product. For some reason, my local supermarkets have only been carrying the version of Heath bits that also has milk chocolate mixed in, so that's what I used; I doubt anyone will complain about a little extra chocolate. I also replaced the mini chocolate chips with semisweet chocolate chunks. Though they are pretty much the opposite of a mini chip, that's what I had.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup honey
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package (12 oz.) miniature semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1 package (7.5 oz.) almond brickle chips (1 cup)

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cream together the butter, shortening, honey and brown sugar. Stir in the egg. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and stir until blended. Then mix in the chocolate and toffee chips.

The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of dough per cookie. Rather than fuss with one of your measuring cups, I highly recommend investing in a #16 cookie/ice-cream scoop. It will vastly simplify and speed the process, and ensure uniform size (and thus uniform baking). They are available from Fantes, where I buy most of my kitchen supplies.

Using the cookie scoop, place the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. These spread out quite a bit, so I did 9 cookies per sheet (3x3); there's just enough dough for 18 cookies, so that's just two sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes. Let them cool for a couple minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to wire racks.

These come out soft, thin, and heavy. They are the closest I have ever made to a cookie from Mrs. Field's, with that dense, buttery goodness. I'm tempted to credit the honey, which I don't recall using in a cookie recipe before; the butter/shortening blend surely helped. Too bad it only made 18; next time I'll double the recipe.

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie

Since I had a new oven, and a new cookbook, I did not have much choice but to bake quite a bit this week. I took two steps forward in my effort to bake the Betty Crocker Cookie Book from start to finish. Last night, I made the "Giant Toffee-Chocolate Chip Cookies," which I will post about next week. Before that, on Tuesday, the first night with our new appliances, I took a stab at "The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie."

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I was afraid I was running low on ingredients, so I hopped over to the Whole Foods for flour, sugar, and chocolate chips. Turns out I didn't need any of them, but my next recipe sure will have some high-end organic ingredients.

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped walnuts
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375F. Cream together the sugars and butter, and stir in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and stir until blended. Then stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. If you have time, it is a nice touch to toast the walnuts in the oven on a baking sheet for 10 minutes before you add them to the dough.

A quick glance at these ingredients should signal that this is going to be a big pile of dough. That usually means there will be a lot of cookies. Not in this case. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of dough per cookie. Rather than fuss with one of your measuring cups, I highly recommend investing in a #16 cookie/ice-cream scoop. It will vastly simplify and speed the process, and ensure uniform size (and thus uniform baking). They are available from Fantes, where I buy most of my kitchen supplies.

Using the cookie scoop, place the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. These need a bit of space, so I did 9 cookies per sheet (3x3). The cookbook calls for 13-15 minutes in the oven, but I found they were ready at 12 minutes. Just keep an eye on them, pull them once they start to brown, then cool on wire racks.

These are very large, thick cookies. All that dough only made about 40 in my batch. They are also a bit cakier than the Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies from Allrecipes I made in July, likely due to the increased white sugar. Very tasty, and very popular.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Recipe

In an effort to jump start my baking, I went to the bookstore yesterday and browsed through the baking section of the cookbooks. My goal was to find a book that I could bake from start to finish. Though tempted by the thick bibles of baking, like Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours or The King Arthur Flour Baking Companion, I decided to go with something more manageable: the Betty Crocker Cookie Book.

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I know, I know. It sounds a little silly, but it's actually a really nice looking book, with glossy pages, easy to read text, and full-page color photos. The recipes are grounded in the traditional, starting with the basic oatmeal cookie, chocolate chip cookie, etc., before moving into slightly more adventurous territory with the likes of the "Frosted Cinnamon-Mocha Cookie" or the "Applesauce Granola Cookie."

A feature I always appreciate is the inclusion of nutritional information for each recipe. There's also a commitment to ingredients that can be found already in the cupboard or available at the average grocery store. That's important, since the plan is to bake each and every recipe in the book, in order. The first recipe: "The Ultimate Oatmeal Cookie."

1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup raisins

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cream the brown sugar and butter, and then stir in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, oats, and raisins, and stir until blended. If you can find them, Sun-Maid makes special packs of baking raisins, which are extra moist and won't dry up your cookies. In the alternative, soak the raisins in a cup of warm water for a few minutes before adding them to the dough.

Using a cookie scoop to ensure the cookies have a uniform size (ensures uniform baking), place the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes (9 for darker baking sheets, 11 for light ones), then cool on wire racks.

These cookies are extraordinarily soft, much more so than my normal oatmeal cookie recipe. I'm a big fan. Next up, "The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie."

Banana Nut Bread Recipe

When I first started baking in law school, I liked to make things that could easily be served at school for my classmates. While quick breads are easy to transport, they are not so easy to serve; you need a knife, plates, etc. This was too bad, because quick breads, like brownies, are so easy to make: add ingredients, mix, pour, bake, done. Once I started bringing food to my office, however, it was easy enough to have a stockpile of paper plates and plastic knives handy. And last Christmas, when I decided I would give gift baskets of baked goods to my co-workers, quick breads were a godsend. I could double recipes, fill multiple mini loaf pans, and mass produce deliciousness.

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My wife has an adorable habit of getting really excited about buying bananas at the grocery store, and then casually forgetting them as they hang on the banana tree in our kitchen. Since she refuses to eat them once they have the slightest shade of brown, I have become accustomed to having orphaned overripe bananas in desperate need of a culinary home. I realized long ago that a decent banana bread would be a staple of my baking arsenal.

As usual, I started by searching Allrecipes for their most popular recipe and found this Banana Banana Bread. Based on several of the reviews, I made a few alterations to the basic recipe, adding cinnamon, pecans, and a brown sugar coating on top:

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
5 mashed bananas
1 cup pecan pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon water

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cream the butter and brown sugar, and then stir in the eggs, bananas, and pecans. For what it's worth, I have found no better tool for mashing bananas then a pair of freshly washed hands. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and stir just until blended. Be careful not to over stir, or the bread may end up too dry.

Pour the dough into a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan. Mix the 3 tbsp. of brown sugar and the water, then brush the mixture over the top of the dough. Bake for 60 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

The brown sugar/water mixture will give a nice, crisp coating to the top. The pecans are optional, so those with nut allergies can opt out, but I think they perfectly balance the sweetness of the bananas. For those whose wives don't mind walnuts, they would also work well. I have made this at least half a dozen times and it is always popular. Dense, moist, delightful. Enjoy!

Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of the paralegals in my office has been begging me for days to make some plain chocolate chip cookies for her. This was a bit of a challenge, since all of the recipes I normally use contain oatmeal, or walnuts, or multiple varieties of chocolate chips. Even more so since the chocolate chip cookie is simultaneously one of the most simple and yet most difficult cookies to perfect. Everyone knows what they think a chocolate chip cookie should taste like, but no one agrees. Soft or crisp? Thin or fat?

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I decided to search on Allrecipes for their most popular recipe, which turns out to be called Award Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies (the hyperbolic names on Allrecipes are its one flaw; when I copy a recipe onto my index cards, I leave the name behind).

Based on several of the reviews, I made a few alterations to the basic recipe, adding baking powder, salt, and more vanilla extract (the key to any decent chocolate chip cookie):

2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 (3.4 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350F. Cream the butter and sugar, and then beat in the pudding mix. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and stir until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough for 30-60 minutes (this is an essential step with butter-heavy dough like this; it prevents the cookies from baking flat).

Using a cookie scoop to ensure the cookies have a uniform size (ensures uniform baking), place the dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. The scoops can be placed pretty close together, since the dough does not spread much during baking. This is helpful since this recipe makes a big hunk of dough (I ended up with 94 cookies, enough to send some to my wife's office as well).

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (10 for darker baking sheets, 12 for light ones), then cool on wire racks. Take them out before they look done, and they will cool just right.

I think they turned out great. They are soft, light, and buttery. The vanilla pudding mix keeps them moist, which is nice when you plan to bake a day (or two) before serving, which I usually do when bringing baked goods to the office. I think my paralegal will be pleased.

UPDATE: They were very popular. So much so that the paralegal who asked for them only got two before they were gone. I even had a gentleman from another office stop by the next day to ask for the recipe.

Baking Blogs

Somehow, despite being someone who loves to bake and spends an embarrassing amount of time surfing the Internet, I never realized how many blogs there are devoted largely or entirely to baking. I have been a devotee of Allrecipes and Joy of Baking since I started baking during my first year of law school, but somehow failed to stumble upon any baking blogs. And what a loss that turns out to have been.

It should come as no surprise that blogging is a great medium for sharing and discussing the science of baked goods. In fact, my favorite aspect of Allrecipes has always been the user reviews, which can give great recommendations for how to tweak the basic recipe. The ability of an individual baker to write a blog, include a recipe, photos, and play-by-play instructions, and then get comments from readers, is that much better.

I added a new category of links to my sidebar, and will point out Butter Sugar Flour as a particular favorite.