Big Brownie Cookies

I’m a little ashamed to even be posting this recipe considering how easy it is. But the results are totally amazing and it is pretty much my go to recipe when I’m short of time but still want to bake something. I decided to make these for a coworker’s birthday and the ol’ classic did not disappoint.

The recipe comes from a fabulous cookbook of “semi-homemade” recipes titled, “The Ultimate Shortcut Cookie Cookbook“. I usually double the recipe so I can use the full bag of chocolate chips – making sure there isn’t half a bag sitting in my house to tempt me. The recipe calls for semisweet chocolate chips, but I like to use white chocolate chips since I think it provides a nice contrast to the chocolate in the cookie itself.

Below is the standard recipe, which I doubled, and pictures of the finished product.

Ingredients
1 (19.5-19.8 oz.) package brownie mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (half a bag)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine brownie mix, oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon until just blended and all dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoon onto cookie sheet, two inches apart.

Bake for 11-14 minutes until cracked in appearance and just barely set at center when lightly touched (13 minutes seems to be the sweet spot for my oven). Cool for one minute on cookie sheet. Transfer to wire racks with metal spatula to cool completely.

Fresh out of the oven

Ready to eat

Tartine Gougères

I had some left over gruyère cheese from my last recipe and also was in the mood to channel my first recipe on this blog, so I turned to the trusty Tartine cookbook and came across the recipe for gougères. I had all the ingredients (except I did have to run to the store to get more eggs – the recipe calls for 6 eggs!) but the steps seemed reasonable and the real Tartine Bakery produces them with such magnificent results that I figured I would give them a try.

They came out in exactly the consistency they should: a hard shell, but a gooey and soft inside. Sadly, the gougères came out of the oven big and plump but soon settled down and lost their poofyness. But hey, they still tasted really good!

The recipe and pictures follow.

Ingredients

Choux Pastry

1 1/4 cups nonfat milk (do not be tempted to use full fat milk as there is enough butter in the recipe to get the fat from)
10 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
1 cup flour
5 large eggs
3/4 cup gruyère cheese, grated
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced

Topping

1 large egg
pinch salt
grated Gruyère for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

To make the choux pastry, combine milk, butter and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Wait for the butter to melt then turn off the heat. Add the flour all at once and stir vigourously until a dough is formed into a large ball. Stirring should take 1 to 2 minutes.

After adding the flour and stirring

Transfer dough to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add eggs one at a time at medium speed making sure to incorporate each egg before adding the next. After all the eggs have been added, the mixture should be thick, smooth and shiny.

Adding the eggs with the electric stand mixer (one of the best kitchen investments one can make)

Add the gruyère, pepper and thyme by hand using a rubber spatula.

You can really notice the thyme

Drop in 1 in rounds on prepared baking sheet.

Dropped cookies, preglazin’

To make the topping, whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt and brush over each pastry. Lightly sprinkle each pastry with a little cheese.

Glazin’

Place pastries in the oven immediately and bake until they are are puffed and browned for about 25 minutes. Serve hot or warm. Or let cool completely and place in an airtight container. You can recrisp the puffs at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.

La Pièce de résistance

Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin With Gruyere

At work each month a group of fellow cooks convene for “Cooking Club” and make food to bring in and share in a potluck fashion. This month’s theme was squashes/gourds/autumn vegetables. I originally wanted to make my mother’s recipe for Butternut Squash Soup but the recipe seemed too complicated. I wanted to use butternut squash as my autumn vegetable so I looked for a recipe and came across one that called for the squash to replace some of the potatoes in an au gratin.

A difficult aspect of cooking club is you often are making dishes you cannot necessarily taste before you serve it to the group, so there is some degree of trust you have to place in your recipe. The recipe is pretty easy and, judging from the comments of my colleagues, I believe came out very well.

The recipe, adopted from “12 Seasons Cookbook,” with a few photos follows.

Ingredients
2 lbs butternut squash (about 1 squash)
3 large potatoes (I used russet potatoes)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp chopped fresh marjoram
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream
4 ozs gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375°F
Butter a 9″ by 12” gratin dish (the CorningWare version did fine by me). Peel the squash with a potato peeler and remove the seeds.

The peeled butternut squash

Slice the squash into 1/8” rounds or half circles (bottom portion). I used a handheld mandoline.

Seeded

and sliced

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/8” slices.

All those peeled and sliced potatoes

In a small bowl, combine thyme, marjoram and sage.

Layer one-third of squash slices in baking dish; use less attractive slices on bottom. Sprinkle with some of the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Layer half of the potato slices over the squash. Sprinkle with some of the herbs and half of the garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread another third of the squash slices on the potatoes. Again, sprinkle more herbs and season with salt and pepper. Spread the remaining potatoes in another layer over the squash and sprinkle some herbs and the rest of the garlic. Top with the remaining squash and herbs and season with salt and pepper.

Firmly press down on the squash and potato layers with a large spoon, spatula or your hand. Slowly pour the cream over the top and down the sides of the dish. Add enough to just barely cover the vegetables when pressed. Too much cream will result in a soupy gratin, too little will make it dry.

Ready for the oven

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

After the first baking period

Remove the foil and sprinkle with the gruyere. Continue to bake, uncovered for 25 to 30 more minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, the cream is nearly absorbed and the top of the gratin is lightly browned. Let the gratin rest for 10 minutes to absorb all the cream before serving.

The final result