Cooking in the time of Corona virus: Chocolatey Goodness
Whew! It was a busy few days here at the Lazy Dog Farm. We had sunshine for two days in a row. Not sure how we go back to the rain / stormy greyness that is our normal weather after this. We’ve spent two glorious days working around the farm trying to get everything ready for spring planting. It’s been exhausting, especially since we’ve all been sick for weeks. But we’ve managed to get quite a bit done while not overdoing it.
So far, we’ve moved two young walnut trees into the side yard. This is to make room for our new driveway which will allow big trucks to pick up equipment for service and make deliveries without having to load and unload on our road. We’ve also cleared all the stone from the old foundation site of the little barn, which will get used to build new front gate pillars and clad the new foundation on the small barn. While we were clearing the stone, the kiddo dug out all the daffodils and tulips that grow along the driveway and moved them to a planter she built out of pavers down near the road.
I spent a few hours raking and cleaning up all the pinecones from our massive tree next to the house. After several strong storms the past few weeks, the entire side yard was littered with the little ankle-breakers. I also managed to get my seeds sorted, a few plants in the containers on the porch, and the plugs ready for the seeds that need to be started indoors. I feel like I’m a few weeks behind on the planting, but our seasons have shifted by about a month around here and we’ve been setting our plants out too soon the past few years. Last year we lost our lettuce after a cold snap at the end of May, so I’m being super cautious about what we put out and when.
I managed to make some cookies in between all the chores. On warm days, I like to bake in the evenings, when the heat from the oven won’t make the house too hot. I’m hoping to convince the Boss to help me build a bread / pizza oven this summer, but with all the other more pressing projects, this one may have to get pushed off yet again. There is a never-ending list of work to be done on a farm, even a smaller one like ours. Machines need servicing, buildings need maintained, fields mowed and tended, crops harvested, fences mended…it all adds up to constant things to do.
This is not to say that there aren’t rewards. Being awakened by a bird chorus outside your window, green and trees as far as the eye can see, peace and quiet, the achy satisfaction of a solid day’s work, evenings spent by the fire with delicious food grown with our own hands, the knowledge that we’re passing a unique way of life on to our kids - the rewards are as plentiful as the tasks that accompany them. The greatest reward is the freedom to live this life in our own way and to enjoy the small things that often go unnoticed in the busy outside world.
Like cookies. I did say I made some cookies the other night. Some people are fans of pie, others like cake, but my thing is cookies. I love a good cookie. I’d pass by every other dessert for a nice crispy cookie. Bite sized, handheld, portable and they last for darn near forever in a sealed container. Cookies to me are the ultimate comfort food.
I have a few favorites: chocolate chip, nut butter (I’m allergic to peanuts), oatmeal raisin and snickerdoodles. I drove my poor grandmother nuts with requests to make snickerdoodles. I would be giddy with delight when she would pull out her recipe box and the magic card was set on the counter. That hand-written recipe card was one of the few things I asked for when she died. I have it framed on my wall in my library, along with the Boss’ grandma’s dinner roll recipe (a family secret). In fact, the Boss would go his grandma’s house for snickerdoodles as well. She kept a magical, never-ending supply of cookies in a cookie jar on her counter. When we were first married, she would send us care packages of cookies - I think she was afraid the Boss would starve to death married to a “city girl”.
At home we made the chocolate chip cookies you cut from the roll, and usually the roll never lasted long enough to make cookies from. We would all secretly dig into that plastic-wrapped tube with spoons when we thought no one was looking. I used to love those cookies, but now after making my own, I could never go back (well…that, and celiac disease).
With my crew, if I make a small batch of cookies, they’re usually gone before dinner the next night. The Boss is a cookie fiend, and the kiddo is often seen with a cookie in her mouth as she runs out the door to her next activity. I have a cookie jar, but they never last long enough to make it worthwhile to load up. I just put them in a container on the counter and watch them disappear. But, unlike bread, cookies are quick and easy to make.
Last night, I hunted around in the pantry to see what I had for making a few batches of cookies to fuel us through another gorgeous day of sunshine and mild temperatures. Since my theme is chocolate this week, I decided to go with chocolate chip, chocolate chews and brownies.
Yes, I count brownies as cookies when they’re not frosted. Frosted, they’re just really dense, fudgy cake - in my humble opinion. When I make them as cookies, I tend to make them a bit more crunchy, fudgy and thin. When they approach cake territory, I make them fluffier and slather them with vanilla buttercream.
Next week I’ll be featuring cinnamon as my ingredient, so get ready for some snickerdoodly excitement!
Chocolate chip cookies(adapted from the original Toll House recipe)
I adapted these to be gluten free when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease almost a decade ago. I was convinced, in my ignorance, that I would never have a good cookie again. My crew actually prefer these over the original.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups (12-ounce package) chocolate chips (or chunks)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine.
3. In a second bowl, beat eggs, vanilla and sugars to combine
4. Gently mix wet ingredients into dry. Stir to combine
5. Fold in chocolate chips.
6. Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheets.
7. Bake for 9 - 11 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown
8. Allow cookies on sheets to cool on wire racks.
Notes: You can refrigerate this dough. Spoon onto waxed paper, roll into a log shape and place in a plastic bag. Refrigerate. You can use cold rolls to make slice and bake cookies - cut into 1/2 inch slices and place on sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes.
Chocolate Chew Cookies
Ok. In all honesty, I buy these at my local bakery - they make a gluten free version that is to die for. But, in these times of quarantine, I have played with a few recipes to get one that is closest to the bakery ones.
2 cups chopped walnuts
3 cups confectioner sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Line 2 cookie pans with parchment paper (I use a silicone mat)
3. On a separate cookie pan, scatter walnuts and toast for 5-10 minutes in oven. (I put mine in the toaster oven)
4. In a food processor, chop walnuts after they have cooled
5. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
6. Add walnuts and stir to combine.
7. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites and vanilla until soft peaks form
8. Gently fold in dry mixture to combine.
9. Drop batter by the spoonful onto prepared cookie sheets making small mounds.
10. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until tops are cracked slightly and surface looks shiny.
11. Allow to cool before placing in an airtight container.
Notes: Will store at room temperature for around a week. The cookies will get chewier as time goes on until you can barely sink your teeth into them. If they get nasty, place in a food processor and use for an ice cream topping - recycling!
Brownies (Alton Brown recipe from foodnetwork.com)
We tend to make these from a box in “normal life”, but we’ve started to make them from scratch because apparently people are hoarding mixes as well. So, here is a recipe we’ve used in the past when we were out of mix - you can’t go wrong with one of AB’s recipes! We usually cut this recipe in half, as a full recipe makes 16 brownies.
Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces melted butter
1 1/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.
2. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow.
3. Add both sugars.
4. Add remaining ingredients and mix to combine.
5. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes.
6. Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean. When it's done, remove to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool.