Monday, May 12, 2008

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook: Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ah, the pinnacle of home cooking perfection: the warm chocolate chip cookie.  No, I'm serious.  When I was in the military the summer before college, I actually dreamed about chocolate chip cookies.  I'm not sure if that's interesting or just sad, but I really do think it shows that these are the essence of comfort food.  I'm normally a semi-sweet girl, but milk chocolate is fun to try once in a while.  And this recipe has a bit more sugar and vanilla, so they turn out a tad sweeter and richer.  Not that that's a bad thing.

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies
From The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups Milk Chocolate Chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter with the granulated and brown sugars using an electric mixer at medium speed until the mixture is creamy and lightened in color, about 4 minutes.  Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until incorporated.

Gradually blend the flour mixture into the creamed mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.  Drop by the tablespoonful onto ungreased cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown.  Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Makes 48 cookies

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse: Boulder Tangerine Tea Gingerbread

I recently returned from a trip to Boulder, CO, for some training for the company I work for. On the last day, I went with one coworker to a restaurant I had read about before leaving for Colorado. It's called The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, and the decorations were made by artists in Tajikistan, then imported and assembled. The teahouse itself was beautiful, with decorations in hues of blue and rose. The inside was nearly as lovely as the outside, with detailed tile ceilings, but since it was nice day, we opted to eat outside.

The tea list occupies its own separate menu, and I decided on a tea called Snow Mountain. It is a green tea with petals of chamomile, rose, jasmine, and lavender. It was delicious. For brunch I ordered the bangers and mash (grilled pheasant sausage with mashed potatoes and grilled escarole). The sausage was flavorful and slightly gamey, and the escarole had a nice grilled smokiness. For dessert we tried the famous gingerbread and the white chocolate pot de crème which comes with a layer of dark chocolate mousse and berries on top. Both desserts were luscious.

Boulder Tangerine Tea Gingerbread
Adapted from The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse as seen in Colorado Life magazine

2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
½ cup honey
½ cup molasses
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup strongly brewed Boulder tangerine tea

Orange Syrup
2 cups orange juice
½ cup granulated sugar
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick

Five-spiced Whipped Cream
8 ounces heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
5 tablespoons powdered sugar
Mix oil, eggs, honey, molasses and sugar. Beat on medium speed until creamy, scraping bowl often. Reduce speed to low, add tea, and mix well. Sift dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add sifted dry ingredients to wet mix. Mix until moistened. Pour batter into oiled and floured square pan. Bake 350 degrees until set, about 50 minutes.

Cut gingerbread into equal squares, then cut each square in half, into triangles. Drizzle medium plate with orange syrup. Place gingerbread pieces on plate. Finish with five-spiced whipped cream.

Orange syrup: Combine all ingredients in sauce pot. Boil on stove top at medium heat, stirring frequently, until reduced to syrup.

Five-spiced whipped cream: Combine all ingredients and whip.