Happy New Years Eve! Why not mini chocolate chip cookies with fleur de sel?

Happy New Year!  Are you doing anything delicious for New Years eve?

I just finished baking up a batch of mini-chocolate chip cookies.  Why chocolate chip cookies for New Years Eve because my girlfriend requested tiny treats that didn’t require utensils, and in Paris I  know I won’t be eating chocolate chip cookies.

Deciding which chocolate chip recipe to use to be quite a daunting a decision. Do I go with the traditional and well tested Nestle toll house recipe,  or with the New York Time Jacque Torres recipe that changed cookie baking in this household as it recommended chilling cookie dough overnight? Or with the Gourmet tiny chocolate chip recipe (food writer Lesley Porcelli introduced me to) which changed my cookie aesthetic forever. These cookies are tiny, buttery, crispy and almost perfect.
So I have adapted from both recipes and  made a few alterations. Instead of light brown sugar,  I prefer dark brown (I skip white sugar entirely because I like the deep dark flavor of dark brown sugar). I slightly change the baking temperature,  amounts of chocolate chips and salt. Lastly, I don’t refrigerate the dough overnight but I do refrigerate for 2-3 hours or throw the dough in the freezer for an hour. You can read more about the science of chocolate chip cookies at seriouseats.com

 Farha’s favorite mini chocolate chip cookies with sea salt (fleur de sel) :

  • 10 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp  baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt (or Torres recommends coarse salt)
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli or Toll House, but many people love Scharffen Berger,  Callebaut or  Guittard for baking.)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix together unsalted butter, brown sugar, sea salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, then mix in one egg and a teaspoon of real vanilla. Add the AP flour and mix. Then add your cup of  chocolate chips.

Drop teaspoons of dough on ungreased cookie tray, and
(optional)   sprinkle the top of the teaspoons of dough with a pinch of sea salt before you bake.

Bake for 7-8 minutes.

I cool them on a rack for about 20 minutes and start eating them three at a time with every meal, or until they are gifted away.IMG_1698

Have a delicious New Year! Please follow me during my travels to Paris, Baltimore, Burlington and Glasgow in 2014. Continue reading


Are sables just cookies or much more?


Are sables just cookies or much more? This past week I baked sables also known as French shortbread. I didn’t think much of it at the time. We were having a friend visiting from San Francisco and I was in my second week of teaching diversity in the city (a course that explores diversity in Paris through culture, immigration, religion, fashion and lastly food).

I had put aside a few to give Lesley Porcelli, the food writer and baker, and upon eating the rest she emailed me “I was really, really smitten with those plain cookies! They were total perfection” (as opposed to the chocolate sables I usually bake). Then three days later she texted, “my father-in-law wants your shortbread recipe. We all love it”.

These cookies are a variation of Dorie Greenspan’s cornmeal shortbread, but the difference was that I didn’t use lemon zest or vanilla, and substituted lemon extract for both.

I didn’t think these cookies were blog worthy until I realized sables are much more than a cookie…they are symbolic of my first trip to Paris from 2009 when I discovered French pastries and and financiers (my other favorite french treat). And now that I am taking my students to Paris in January, I think it’s time I share the sables with my class as well.

Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies
(recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon (I used lemon extract)
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted, room temperature butter (use Kate’s butter if you can find it)
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, or 1/2 teaspoon of pure almond extract (remember I skipped this and used lemon extract)

In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in the cornmeal, and set the mixture aside.
Working in the bowl of a stand mixer or other large bowl, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and extract to the bowl and, using either your stand mixers paddle attachment or whisk, or a hand mixer, beat on medium speed until the mixture is very smooth (about 3 minutes).
Reduce the mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until the flour streaks have disappeared into the dough (do not over-mix).
Roll the dough into two logs of dough, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or freeze for one).

Getting ready to bake:
Preheat the oven to 350F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or baking mats.
Place one of the rolls of dough onto a cutting board and slice about a 1/2 inch apart.
Place the baking sheets in the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 300F. Bake the cookies for 25-30 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time. The cookies should just slightly golden.
Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

Sables...much more than a cookie?

Sables…much more than a cookie?

My students in SOC 399/Diversity in Paris will be sampling more Parisian French, Lebanese French and Moroccan French treats when we travel there this January. Check back for more of our culinary adventures. Currently they are exploring how contemporary diversity in Paris is changing its culture, art and culinary landscape.

What happened to Nabisco chocolate wafers?

What happened to  Nabisco chocolate wafers? They seem to have disappeared from all my local grocery stores. I know they are still made because  you can order them on amazon.com

Smitten kitchen chocolate wafers

Smitten kitchen chocolate wafers

I  really love chocolate wafers for sweet treats at home, or for making my own ice cream sandwich.

So during the heatwave I finally made a batch of chocolate wafers using Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. These chocolate wafers are almost like a deep dark shortbread.

Fresh out of the oven, these are getting mailed to Tampa...

Fresh out of the oven, these are getting mailed to Tampa…

I recently made a batch by reducing the sugar from  1 cup of sugar to 3/4  cup of sugar for my mother’s birthday (she’s diabetic). My tip with this recipe is use the best dutch processed cocoa you can, and be sure to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour before you bake. I usually use Droste cocoa.  Others really love Scharffen Berger for baking.

They are perfect on their own (think high end Oreos meet Dorie Greenspan’s dark chocolate sables aka world peace cookies), but they also make the perfect mini-ice cream sandwich, especially with Talenti Gelato in espresso or Belgian chocolate or Soco Icecream in salted caramel.

Smitten kitchen wafers with Talenti chocolate gelato

Smitten kitchen wafers with Talenti chocolate gelato

So for those of you who suffered through a heat wave, need a sweet treat for Iftar or are looking for a new ice cream treat, consider these!

I’ve also tried other recipes from Smitten Kitchen, and along with David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan, it is one of my favorite go to baking blogs!