Saturday, December 20, 2014

Espresso and White Chocolate Drop Cookies

Weeks ago I declared there would be no Christmas baking in 2014, none, nada, zero, zip... this would be the year to simplify holiday preparations. Well, that resolution lasted midway through the month and then poof! disappeared in a weekend burst of baking activity. Can I blame it on the internet, brimming with food blogs, foodie Facebook pages and Pinterest boards that feature holiday cakes and cookies? Forget the blame, I'm busy baking.  

The baking began with these ordinary-looking  and flavor-packed drop cookies. Sweet, but not too sweet, they resemble flattened chocolate chip cookies but carry a noticeable caffeine back note. A Google search produced a gazillion variations of cookie recipes featuring coffee and white chocolate; rolled flat and shaped with cookie cutters, rolled into cylinders and sliced like a refrigerator cookie, crispy twice-baked biscotti, soft and gooey like fudge or brownies, frosted or plain... Omigosh, so many choices! I went with this recipe from joythebaker. That girl can bake!

Not fancy enough for holiday cookies? Whatever these Espresso White Chocolate Drop Cookies might lack in fancy frosting and exotic ingredients, they make up for in satisfying flavor. Even the raw dough smells temptingly good... just saying. Thanks Joy, we'll enjoy this recipe year 'round.  

Espresso White Chocolate Drop Cookies
Yield: 3+ dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 scant teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons instant espresso
1 cup white chocolate chips

Position the racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Line two or three baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper. Set aside; you'll preheat the oven after chilling the dough.

Use a medium bowl and whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and instant espresso powder.

Use a stand mixer and beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 min. Stop the mixer; use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl. 

Add the egg and egg yolk; beat on medium speed until incorporated and fluffy, about 1 to 2 min. Add the vanilla extract and beat briefly to mix in. 

Stop the mixer; add all of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until just barely combined. 

Stop the mixer again and add the chocolate chips; fold together with a wooden spoon or spatula until well combined. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking pans, spaced several inches apart to allow room to spread. 

Bake for 10 to12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. (My dough was darker than joys, making it hard to see any browning.) Remove from the oven and cool undisturbed on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes. When the cookies have firmed up, remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container. where they will last several days... if they last that long. Betcha you can't eat just one!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ladies Who Lunch, and Brunch, and Occasionally Visit Starbucks

And since you are going to ask, yes, that would be me this past week now that I am fully off the crutches. Omigosh, I have reveled in the opportunity to be out and about, to engage with friends and family, and to enjoy someone else's cooking. 

Snoqualmie Falls & Lodge
Sunday Brunch at Salish Lodge led off the recent series of dining excursions. The weather cooperated and the setting was breathtaking, a mere hundred+ yards from the top of Snoqualmie Falls, the 268-foot waterfall, that is one of Washington State's most popular scenic attractions. Built in 1919 the original Snoqualmie Falls Lodge was famous for its view, hospitality and hearty breakfasts. My first visit to the old lodge was many decades ago during my freshman year at the Univ. of Washington. I remember a steaming bowl of tasty oats, fluffy pancakes, fresh biscuits and the waitress drizzling honey onto our plates from an impossible height. 

Biscuits & honey
The property changed ownership, major renovation and remodeling followed, and the new Salish Lodge & Spa opened in 1988. The dining room and country breakfasts are still renowned. Laci and Slone spent the early morning on a snowy roundtrip hike to Snow Lake, and met us at the lodge for a 10:30am brunch. 
Photo: My brunch companions at Salish Lodge
Seated near the crackling fireplace we poured over the tempting menu, sipped mugs of well-brewed coffee and caught up on recent happenings. The tabletop soon filled with 1 order of Oatmeal plus a side of eggs, 1 Eggs Benedict over Ham, another Eggs Benedict with Vegetables, and my Smoked Salmon Hash Skillet, plus plates of biscuits... with honey still drizzled from on high. I wouldn't bother with the salmon hash skillet again, but the Oatmeal and Eggs Benedict rated high marks from the other diners.

During a subsequent weekday lunch at the Columbia City Ale House the Soup Du Jour sounded so tempting that I veered from my usual order of the Red Reuben Sandwich or Fish Tacos. A steaming cup of Hearty Beef with Barley Soup paired with a small Honey Apple Mixed Green Salad was the perfect combo for a cool, gray December day. Good choice! 

Photo: Soup & Salad Combo at Columbia City Ale House
RL ate every bite of his Southwest Flat Iron Steak Sandwich, so the ancho chili rub, chipotle mayo, melted Jack cheese and fresh Pico de Gallo salsa must have been a hit... but I didn't notice or take any photos. I was too busy enjoying every drop of that colorful cup of richly flavored soup.    

Photo: Entrance to Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle
Another day, another adventure! The newly opened Starbucks Roastery & Tasting Room in Seattle is Howard Schultz's latest shrine to coffee, most striking (to me) for the visual experience inside this incredible location. Copper pipes, pneumatic tubes, little coffee bean lifts and giant vats... everywhere we looked intriguing equipment sparkled under Disneyland lighting. 

Photo: Ladies Who Do Lunch & Occasionally Visit Starbucks
Hilary, Chelsea, Laci and I wandered wide-eyed through the multi-level, Willy Wonka-style, warehouse-size space. We were intrigued with the overall design, the unique equipment, the entire coffee-production process, and impressed for the most part with the helpful staff. The actual ordering of a cup of coffee needs some fine tuning... order where? which line? not here? 45 minutes and still waiting, really?

Photo: Inside Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Seattle
A new Tom Douglas Serious Pie restaurant fills a small corner of the building, and that destination was the highlight of my day. Our starter plate of creamy burrata, charred Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced Fuji apples with a drizzle of pine bud syrup was absolutely swoon worthy - no exaggeration. Four of us shared two pizzas, wildly different in flavorful toppings but equally desirable atop thin and crisp, lightly charred, delicious crusts. Generous portions of Penn Cove clams, house-cured pancetta and lemon thyme topped the first pie - ok, this was my favorite and I devoured two pieces, but you do have to love clams. 

Photo: Penn Cove Clam Pizza at Serious Pie
Photo: Sweet Fennel Sausage Pizza at Serious Pie
The second pie held sweet fennel sausage, roasted red peppers and provolone cheese - not surprisingly it disappeared first (not everyone is wild about clams). I am totally ready to return here, or to another Serious Pie location, and nibble my way down the rest of the tempting menu offerings. Maybe a Happy Hour sip and graze with friends. As for coffee, I'll still brew it at home, though the foam won't be as pretty.

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