What’s Making Me Happy, May 18, 2013

Perfect (well – almost) Chocolate Chip Cookies

I found this recipe on Saveur‘s website (one of my favorite food magazines) a while back, and it is almost perfect. Gillian had been telling me for years that she wanted to find a good recipe for flat and chewy and just a little crispy chocolate chip cookies. We found that the  recipe on the chocolate chip bag just wasn’t cutting it.

I say it is almost perfect because I don’t like the shaved chocolate that it calls for. I found that it melted so thoroughly throughout the dough that it made chocolate cookies, rather than chocolate CHIP cookies. They were good, but not quite what I wanted.

With a few tweaks and the original recipe more or less halved, this is what I’ve come up with. They are perfectly delicious almost every time. Being able to satisfy the discriminating palate of my spouse, who is an extraordinary cook, makes me very happy.


1 C flour
1 t  fleur de sel (or your favorite salt – I like to get a little fancy here)
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t cinnamon (optional)
3/4 C brown sugar
3/4 C white sugar
8 T unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
6 oz chocolate chips, roughly chopped


1. Mix flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda in a bowl; set aside.

2. In another bowl, beat sugars and butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in vanilla.

3. Add reserved flour mixture, chocolate, and nuts; mix until just combined.

4. Roll the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a thick log. The log should be wrapped in the plastic wrap. You may opt to wrap the log with a second layer of tin foil. Chill for about 1/2 hour before baking.

5. Heat oven to 325°. Divide dough into 1-tbsp. portions; roll into balls, transfer to parchment paper–lined baking sheets spaced 3″ apart, and flatten. Bake until set, about 15 minutes.

I keep the dough in the fridge and make cookies to order, so they are fresh out of the oven whenever we want them.


What’s Making Me Happy – January 6, 2013

Cake Flour – and baking in general

Yes, cake flour. My wife is the resident artist-chef Chez Conner-Smith, and I am the designated baker. I do alright in that role, but I have to admit I have been discouraged by my results over the past year or so. However, I had some good success over the 2012 holidays, making delicious baguettes, a rustic loaf, and chocolate cookies that knocked my wife’s socks off (no small feat that – and no pun intended).

There are a few recipes in particular that I have thus far found vexing, such as biscuits. Before today, I had yet to follow a biscuit recipe that did not result in bricks that were just barely edible. Today I discovered the secret ingredient: Cake flour.

I just needed a little less protein. The following recipe that yielded light and fluffy biscuits that melt in your mouth. Delicious.

1 1/4 C cake flour
3/4 C all-purpose flour
1 T sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder 
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 C butter, chilled
3/4 C buttermilk*
1 pat of melted butter
A little extra flour for the work surface

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a food processor.
  3. Cut the butter into small pieces or pats and put them in the processor with the dry ingredients. Pulse and mix until you have coarse crumbs.
  4. With the food processor running, pour in the buttermilk in a steady stream. Mix until you have a ball of dough, which should only take about a minute. You don’t want to work the dough too much. The dough should be nice and wet.
  5. Put the dough onto a generously floured work surface. Pat or roll the dough out until it is about 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cut the biscuits into the desired sizes and shapes, either using a cutter or a knife.
  6. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the biscuits on the baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven, serve, and eat!

*If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own by squeezing about a teaspoon into the 3/4 C. milk.

I’m encouraged to try cake flour with popovers, and perhaps other recipes!

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my mom’s birthday.

She hasn’t been with us since January 10, 2001, but everyone in my family finds a way to celebrate her life each year on her birthday.

On the anniversary of her death this year, my family had a very sweet email exchange about how we were all recognizing the anniversary of her passing. Our mother loved food, and it turned out that each of us was preparing a special menu in her honor and raising a glass to her.

My mother struggled with it the way that so many women do in this culture. I used to blame my mother for my my own formerly unhealthy relationship with food. I have struggled with food in my own way, and I have happily ended up with in a healthy place of loving delicious cuisine. Now I credit my mother with my very healthy appreciation of fine dining. I thank her for my educated palate.

My beloved is an artist in the kitchen, and each year on the anniversary of her death and on her birthday, we have a special meal that we know she would love. In January we had steak and Ceasar salad with a lovely Cabernet. My sister and her husband also made steak. My brother had artichokes with hollandaise (which we would have had but the artichokes here in Chicago just weren’t up to snuff).

So this weekend, Gillian has prepared a special menu yet again. We’re having shrimp scampi tonight, and tomorrow, shrimp cocktail with potatoes gratin and a lovely steak. I wish she were here, and I’m sure in her way she is.

Gillian and Mom got to meet before Mom died, but Gillian never got to cook for her. I’m sure she’s enjoying the ever meal that we prepare in her honor.