Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies {with Sno-caps!}

These are my favorite chocolate chip cookies. 

For the longest time, they've been hidden away on my blog, nestled inside this Cheesecake Cookie Sandwiches Two Ways: Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk & Strawberry Shortcake post. How have I never just written about my go-to, most-baked, most boyfriend-demanded chocolate chip cookies? 

Probably the same way I missed National Bundt Cake Day. 

P.S. Do you need a bundt cake? I got you. Try my Buttermilk Banana Bundt Cake with Brown Butter IcingZebra Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache IcingPumpkin Buttermilk Bundt Cake with Brown Butter Icing, or my favorite: this Cheesecake-Filled Gingerbread Bundt Cake. It's never too late to celebrate... or too early for gingerbread.

Today we're baking Sno-caps into our chocolate chip cookies... because there are red cups and wrapping paper and twinkle lights in the world and Sno-caps (semi-sweet chocolate chips covered in white nonpareil sprinkles and resembling snow-capped mountains) are the perfect holiday twist for easing ourselves into Christmastime baking.

Tis the season, I know.. but I'm totally not ready just yet for candy canes and peanut butter blossoms. Let's start with festive chocolate chip cookies!      

What makes these my favorite chocolate chip cookies? 

 Brown butter. You know about my love for baking everything ever with brown butter and these chocolate chip cookies is where that love all started. Besides adding a nutty, caramel-rich depth of flavor, it gives these cookies a soft chewiness that can only found when you're baking with melted butter.    

Molasses + dark brown sugar. Molasses adds a warm, just-slightly gingerbread flavor to the dough, while keeping the centers of these cookies just-baked soft for days. The dark brown sugar (which is just light brown sugar with even more molasses) works with the molasses to create one perfectly-soft, chewy chocolate chip cookie.

 Fact: No matter what I'm baking, I almost always reach for the dark brown sugar over the golden brown.  

 Cinnamon. I'm almost always adding a little something extra to my cookie dough and that something is either in the form of cinnamon or bourbon. Bourbon accents the vanilla/caramel flavors from the brown butter and molasses and cinnamon makes the chocolate flavors really pop.

But be honest: who really keeps bourbon in their baking cabinet? I just don't have that kind of faith in myself.

   Triple chocolate chips. These cookies are similar to my Triple Chocolate Chip Cake Batter Cookies... they're full of semisweet chocolate, white chocolate chips, and crispy, sprinkle-covered Sno-Caps. My weakness? White chocolate chips in my chocolate chip cookies! 

Now if Nestle would just make a white chocolate version of their semisweet chunks.

Crispy edges. Soft, chewy centers that stay just-baked for days... if they even last that long. Plus those golden specks of brown butter I can't stop talking about, cinnamon, dark brown sugar, molasses, and as many types of chocolate chips as I can possibly bake into a cookie? 

It almost makes up for not having bourbon.


P.S. I made these cookies Saturday. They were gone within four days. 

Brown Butter Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Printable Recipe

1 cup (2 sticks) + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips 
1 (3.1-ounce) package Sno-Caps

Brown butter. Brown 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon of butter by heating over medium heat, whisking constantly, until golden brown. Once butter is browned, remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool slightly. For more information on how to brown butter, see this post

Mix. In a stand mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the other stick of butter with the granulated sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and molasses and beat until incorporated. Add the slightly cooled brown butter and the brown sugar and mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until fully incorporated. 

Whisk. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Add all at once to the butter mixture and mix on low until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate, white chocolate, and Sno-Caps with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Chill. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Tip: The longer you chill the dough, the thicker they will become when they bake!) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough into balls using a small cookie scoop and place 2 inches apart on baking sheet.

Bake. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until cookies are just starting to turn golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Source: Adapted from the Joy the Baker cookbook.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Vanilla Bean Latte Cupcakes with Mocha-Vanilla Swirled Buttercream.

Happy National Vanilla Cupcake Day! It's totally a thing.

Earlier this year I made the softest, fluffiest, most very-vanilla cupcakes ever from cupcake batter spiked with real vanilla beans. These cupcakes had me dreaming of wedding cake, with their light, delicate vanilla flavor all while still being perfectly sweet and rich (... or maybe it was their peanut butter cup centers!). Either way, they instantly became my go-to vanilla cupcake recipe... and made me fall in love all over again with simple, classic vanilla cake.

They also got me hooked on baking with vanilla beans. I've even started making my own vanilla extract!

Those black specks... it's pure vanilla love. 

To celebrate Vanilla Cupcake Day (P.S. October 18th was National Chocolate Cupcake Day. Did you celebrate?) I baked a batch of my favorite vanilla bean cupcakes with a coffee-shop twist inspired by one of my favorite cold, blustery fall afternoon pick-me-ups: Starbucks' vanilla lattes.

Is there anything more comforting than vanilla, hot milk, and dark, rich espresso on a cold November day?

The answer is yes: cinnamon, sugar, and chocolate.

The answer is also cinnamon, sugar, and chocolate AND vanilla and espresso. 

And we're celebrating today by putting it all together in a cupcake. 

These cupcakes are made up of three easy, irresistible parts: 

1. Vanilla bean cupcake batter.

2. A swirl of cinnamon-sugar and espresso powder.

3. And my favorite vanilla buttercream, divided in half. One half is left pure, rich vanilla, one half is spiked with chocolate and coffee and then both are swirled together. It's even easier than it sounds! A medium bowl, a tablespoon of cocoa powder, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of espresso powder. Easily one of these best frostings I've ever licked off a spoon.

Optional/totally not optional: a fat chocolate-covered espresso bean on top.

1. Baking these cupcakes couldn't be easier. The cupcake batter comes together in minutes and is packed full of rich vanilla flavor. And it's no wonder! They're spiked with vanilla beans, vanilla extract, AND vanilla yogurt. Triple vanilla flavor = one rich, perfectly-vanilla cupcake. 

2. Next, the cake batter is spooned into cupcake liners and sprinkled with a teaspoon a cinnamon-sugar-espresso mixture. Without the smallest addition of espresso powder, these might have baked into snickerdoodle cupcakes or coffee cake cupcakes. Just the smallest spoonful of espresso and vanilla bean latte cakes are happening.

Tip: Don't completely cover the espresso-sugar layer with cupcake batter. Those sugary edges peeking out will bubble up with cinnamon-coffee goodness when baking. This is totally a thing you want. Also, be sure to only fill the liners 3/4 of the way full... they will rise when baking!

You can't even imagine what my apartment smelled like while these were baking. Like cinnamon-sugar, buttery, crumbly coffee cake, snickerdoodle blondies, wedding cake, and strong, freshly-brewed coffee.      

3. And we're not done! I couldn't decide whether to top these with vanilla frosting or mocha frosting... so I made both! I used my standard vanilla buttercream (the same frosting that tops my Cut-Out Sugar Cookies), spiked half with espresso & cocoa powder, and then swirled them both together using a Wilton #1M piping tip and the same method as my three-tone chocolate cupcakes

I frosted another one of my favorite cupcakes like this too: my chocolate-vanilla-swirled Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cupcakes. If you haven't tried those yet, then I think it's just best if we make November 11th National Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cupcake Day. 

Vanilla Bean Latte Cupcakes with Vanilla-Mocha Buttercream

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt (or sour cream)
3/4 cup milk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Seeds scraped from 1 split vanilla bean

Espresso Swirl
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder 

Vanilla-Mocha Frosting 
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups powdered sugar 
2-4 tablespoons milk 
1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Prep. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners and set aside.

Mix dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. 

Melt. Melt the butter in the microwave in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar until combined. Stir in the egg whites, vanilla yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract. 

Vanilla bean. Using a sharp knife, cut one vanilla bean in half length-wise, from top to bottom. Gently scrape the seeds from the whole bean into cupcake batter. Whisk until combined, making sure to break up any vanilla seed clumps if necessary.

Make your cupcake batter. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until smooth and no lumps remain. 

Cinnamon & spice. In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder. Set aside. 

Scoop. Fill cupcake liners a scoop with batter, about 1/3 of the way full (tip: use a cookie scoop!). Sprinkle a teaspoon of the espresso-sugar over the batter, then scoop cupcake batter over the top until liners are 3/4 of the way full.

Bake. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake tests clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before frosting. 

Frost. To make the frosting, beat butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and salt. Beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add 2 tablespoons of milk; beat at high speed until light and fluffy. Add additional milk until desired piping consistency. 

Make it mocha!  Transfer half the frosting to a small bowl and stir in espresso powder and cocoa.  

Swirl. To frost, place each frosting in a separate piping bag. Place both bags together in one piping bag fitted with a Wilton #1M piping tip. Top each cupcake with swirls of frosting and a chocolate-covered espresso bean. For more help on piping with two-tone frostings, see this post.   

Source: Adapted from my Vanilla Bean Cupcakes, originally adapted from The Cupcake Project