DIY Girl Scout Cookies – How to Make Them at Home

It’s that time of year again…Girl Scout Cookies are on sale! For those of you that are still bummed out over the news last year that the Girl Scouts cut back on the varieties (it was huge national news…just check out The Wall Street Journal), there is help online. One of my favorite blogs, Baking Bites, has a great post on how to make your own. And if your favorite cookie isn’t covered in that post, check out Chow. Fijis, Slim Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Samoas, Tagalongs…they’re all there for the making. Even if your favorite wasn’t scratched from the line-up, you should give these recipes a shot. Not only do they taste better when you make them yourself, but you also get a wonderful feeling of accomplishment that helps negate that horrible feeling you get when you look in the mirror after gorging yourself on them. And after you’ve had your fill of Girl Scout cookies, check these out, the Best Chocolate Chip cookies ever invented!

Tip of the Day – The Best Way to Gain Weight ;-)

Awhile back I wrote about how important it is to have a great scale, like the OXO Good Grips Scale, and to weigh ingredients for consistent results. As you’ve probably experienced, Americans seldom give weights in recipes, but in the UK, they almost always do. Well, over at Lifehacker, someone named Jesseg came up with an amazingly simple, yet inciteful, idea…when looking for recipes, search using google.co.uk, rather than google.com and the recipes you find will almost always have weights…just make sure you remember to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, or your stuff may never get done!

Cooking Weights and Measurements Conversion Charts

Kitchen measurements When a recipe calls for a cup of flour, most people just scoop out a “cup” and then level it off with a knife…easy and fast but, unfortunately, not very accurate or consistent. A little too much flour here or sugar there, and instead of a delicious chewy cookie you could end up with rockhard paperweight better suited for self-defense then dessert.  That’s why weighing ingredients, especially when baking, is essential. A great scale, like the OXO Good Grips Scale, is an important tool for success in the kitchen. I try to give ingredients in my recipes by both weight and volume, but if you encounter a recipe that doesn’t, King Arthur Flour has a really helpful Master weight chart for just about every commonly used ingredient in baking. If you need to convert to metric or vice-versa, just click here for some charts to help with converting metric equivalents or try this interactive Online Cooking Converter that converts cooking units instantly…it’s amazing! Once you start weighing ingredients, you’ll see an incredible improvement in outcomes and consistency.

Thanks to Good Housekeeping for the photo.

Everyone Loves Mom’s Amazing Pinwheel Cookies

Pinwheel cookiesEveryone loves these cookies…that’s because they can be made to everyone’s taste. The basic recipe is really simple, but the beauty of it is that you can add any filling you like, so everyone gets what they want. From raspberry jam to cinnamon and sugar to chocolatey goodness, no one goes away disappointed…and they not only taste great, but they look incredible. The secret to slicing them into neat, perfectly round cookies before baking is to use dental floss (unwaxed and unflavored…although I guess you could go for a minty floss to accent the chocolate cookies…or not!). Just wrap it around the cookie logs and tighten it as if tying a knot to make a perfect, round cookie.

Please click here for the printable recipe.

Sourdough Starter – Drying and Reviving It (and how to get it for FREE!)

Dried Sourdough StarterIt’s always a good idea to have some dried starter on hand as backup if, for some reason,  your “live” starter suffers an untimely death…it’s sad, but it happens. It’s also a great way to share your starter with someone. The drying process is very simple. Thinly spread some of your live starter on a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap…a pastry brush or spatula works well here…then just let it dry. When completely dry (it can take from a few hours to a full day, depending on temperature), just peel it off the paper and crush it up…a coffee or spice grinder works well or you can just put it in a zip lock bag and whack it a few times with a rolling pin (that’s the post-whacked state in the picture on the left). Store it in an air-tight zip lock bag at room temperature or in the refrigerator or freezer…it’s all good.

Now, if your ready to get started, you’re going to need some dried starter to start your starter, so check out my Sourdough Whole Wheat Pumpkin Seed No Knead Bread post where you’ll find the link to send for some Carl Griffith’s Sourdough Starter…it’s been around since 1847! I’ve been using it for years, it’s excellent and you can’t beat the price…literally…’cause it FREE!

Reviving your dried starter is a relatively simple process also. This great video clip is from Breadtopia, one of my favorite sites, and it shows you exactly how to do it. If you’re into bread and baking, you should definitely check out Breadtopia for amazing recipes and videos.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever!

The Best Chocolate Chip CookiesThis is, without a doubt, the best chocolate chip cookie I (or anyone else) ever tasted! The recipe has been around for awhile…I believe  it was originally printed in The Frog Commissary Cookbook, published in 1985, and named for a restaurant in Philadelphia that was popular in the 1970’s.  It has just the right balance of flavors and textures. I don’t love most oatmeal chocolate chip cookies because it seems the oatmeal flavor is usually overwhelming and the texture is dry, but not with these cookies. They’re crispy on the edges and moist and chocolatey in the center…the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of milk. One of the best things about this recipe is how well the dough freezes. I chill the dough a little and roll it into 1½” diameter logs (like the ones you can buy in the supermarket), wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them. Then, when the urge strikes, I just slice off a few 1″ pieces and pop them right in a 350˚ oven, and you have fresh, hot homemade cookies in about 12 minutes. You can also roll them into 1″ balls, freeze them and stick them right in the oven when you absolutely, positively immediately need a hot, homemade killer chocolate chip cookie.

Please click here for the printable recipe.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies For those of you the regularly follow this blog (and I mean both of you, so pay attention!), you know I usually post my own recipes or my take on other recipes with my tweaks, tips or suggestions added, but I really don’t think you can improve on this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for your basic, delicious chocolate chip cookie.  I made these last night and they were, as the title suggests, pretty close to perfect! The browning of the butter before it’s added to the recipe adds a depth of flavor you don’t find in other chocolate chip cookie recipes, or as CI puts it “A chocolate chip cookie that’s moist and chewy on the inside and crisp at the edges, with deep notes of toffee and butterscotch to balance its sweetness.” I do have one other recipe that I think compares to this for a chocolate chip cookie made with oatmeal (I think it’s actually much better!), but for now, if your jonesing for a killer cookie, try this recipe…you won’t regret it (until you try and fit into your pants the next day).

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita

I know lately I’ve kind of been dwelling on whole wheat sourdough baking variations, but I’m on a roll (get it?). Anyhow, if you take the Sourdough Whole Wheat Pizza Crust dough recipe and divide it up into 60-70 gram (about 2-2.5 oz) golf ball size portions, flatten them out into 4-6 inch rounds about 1/8 inch thick and throw them in a 500 degree oven (preferably on a preheated baking stone, but a baking sheet works too) for 5-6 minutes (flip them over after about 3 minutes), they will puff up into beautiful, tasty pitas. It’s actually amazing to watch!

Sourdough Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Suasage, Mushroom, Caramelized Onion Pizza ready for oven
Ready for the Oven

There’s nothing better then homemade pizza and this crust is simple and delicious. If you need sourdough starter, check out my bread post from last week, where you’ll find a link to get FREE sourdough starter. I prefer thin crust pizzas (being from the New York area…where we make REAL pizza), but if you prefer a thicker crust, it’s all here in the printable recipe. This is one of those recipes that appears to be a little vague at first, but once you try it and get the feel for how the dough should come together, it’s simple and quick to replicate whenever you get the urge…which for me, seems to happen about 3-4 times a week lately. And since the recipe makes 3 crusts which freeze incredibly well, you actually don’t have it make it that often. Just take one out of the freezer, and in about 3 hours, it’s ready to roll. The crust is also vary versatile and can be used in dozens of different ways. Just the other day, I topped one with just caramelized onions, crumbled goat cheese and drizzled some olive oil on it and it was amazing. It also makes a great calzone!

Please click here for the printable recipe.

Sausage, Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Pizza with a Sourdough Whole Wheat Crust

SMO PizzaJust wanted to post a shot of the pizza I made tonight…it tasted as good as it looks. This was, of course, made from scratch and here is the printable recipe for the crust.  One of the most important tricks to making a great pizza is using a pizza stone…you just can’t bake a great crust without it. A pizza stone has a greater thermal mass then either a glass or metal pan and therefore holds and distributes heat better. It’s also porous, so it absorbs moisture from the dough as it cooks, all of which contributes to an amazing, crisp, uniformly browned crust. Also, get yourself a pizza peel…they’re inexpensive and make putting the pizza in and, more importantly, taking the hot pizza out of the oven, a breeze.

Pizza stones are available just about everywhere, and come in a variety of sizes and shapes (and prices). They should be put in a cold oven, then preheated for at least 30 minutes before using. Because they are porous and absorb liquid, the stone should never be washed with soap…just a dry brush or some plain, warm water if needed. They are also ideal surfaces for baking bread and also for making crispy, homemade crackers.

t stone or piece of ceramic or earthenware used to evenly distribute oven heat to pizzas or other baked goods, more or less mimicking the effects of cooking a pizza in a masonry oven. Such bakeware has more thermal mass than metal or glass pans. The porous nature of the stone used also helps absorb moisture, resulting in a crisp crust.