Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I love summer tomatoes. Funny thing is that when I was a kid, I HATED tomatoes. I didn't care where they came from or what they were in, I was NOT eating them, well, besides ketchup. Like we keep telling the boys, tastes change. We have 3 different varieties growing in our garden - San Marzano, Heirloom and Sweet 100s. We have gotten a couple of varieties from our CSA too. Needless to say, for the past couple of weeks, our counter has been a resting place for tomatoes. Fun Fact: Tomatoes should be stored on your counter vs. the refrigerator. 

We have a handle on the Sweet 100s. The boys, especially C, love to help pick them. More end up in their stomach vs. the tub, but that is A-OK with me. They seriously taste like candy. It is so easy to pop a couple (okay, handful) in your mouth. With the rest of the tomatoes, I've made sauce and plan on making marinara. I may even try freezing a few whole. 

When the boys heard us talking about Ratatouille, they thought we were talking about the movie. C even asked if they got the recipe from the movie. The first time I heard of Ratatouille was in college. I was working at the genetics clinic and we had an intern, Sarah, from England for the summer. She was staying with our lab director, also British. Sarah would eat lunch with us and one day she had leftover Ratatouille. I remember thinking it was so exotic and beyond my comfort zone to even think about eating something like that. Like we keep telling the boys, tastes change.

We got eggplant in our CSA box so I knew it was time for Ratatouille. It is the epitome of summer to me  - tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, summer squash, and fresh herbs. Any ratatouille is going to take some time. There is a LOT of chopping. I do think this recipe goes a little faster because you puree the red peppers and the tomatoes. Again, it is a lot of work, but this is seriously the best Ratatouille I have ever had. It is totally worth the two hours of chopping, cooking and stirring. Before I go further, I have to say, sadly the boys weren't nearly as big of fans of this as Ray and I were. 

This makes a huge batch - but then when you have four pounds of tomatoes as the base, two and a half pounds of zucchini/ summer squash and a pound and a half of eggplant, you have to expect it. As suggested, this is even better the next day. You will not be disappointed eating this right after it is made. 

I got this recipe from an online friend and I will be forever grateful to her. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

We all grew up eating the chocolate chip cookies from the back of  Toll House Chocolate Chip bag. Does anyone else remember the commercial with the song - "Open up the yellow bag, let's make some cookies!" It's funny when I think back to making those cookies. I didn't preheat the oven. I just turned on the oven as I put the baking sheet in the oven. It never occurred to me why the first batch always seemed to take so much longer to bake, or that they were never as good as the other batches. It never crossed my mind  to make another recipe for chocolate chip cookies other than what was on the bag.

I can't remember the last time I made the Toll House recipe. I do know the last time I did, I was disappointed. It just wasn't as good as I remembered. My fall back is Alton Brown #10 or the Alton Brown Chewy, but I get on these jags, where I want to try something new. That is where this recipe came into play. I got the Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe a while back but hadn't made anything from it. I saw Joann Chang on Sticky Bun Throwdown with Bobby Flay and when her book came out, I knew I wanted it. The book is nice because the measurements for the ingredients are listed by weight and volume. I love that - so much easier to have a bowl on the scale and dump in vs. all the measuring cups. 

Here are the notes from an article in The Atlantic:

Like so many home bakers, the first time I made chocolate chip cookies I used the recipe from the back of the Toll House Chocolate Chip package. I was probably 10 years old and my mom watched over the process to make sure I didn't burn the house down. I didn't, and the cookies became a staple in the Chang household. Once I started baking professionally, I was in a world where no recipe was ever good enough—and the idea of baking chocolate chip cookies from the Toll House package was like suggesting to Bill that he read Software for Dummies—way too elementary. So I tested every other chocolate chip cookie recipe out there (or so it seemed). Every pastry chef and his/ her mother has a version of this cookie that is purported to be a vast improvement on the classic Toll House. Then, in 2000, I had to pick a final recipe for our chocolate chip cookie for Flour Bakery. You know what? There's a reason why everyone loves the Toll House cookie recipe: It makes an amazingly swell cookie.

So I used that recipe as my starting point, but I did make a few small adjustments to bring it from good to great. First I substituted some of the all-purpose flour with bread flour which gives additional heft to the final cookie and makes it chewy rather than flat and crispy. I stirred some chopped milk chocolate to the dough, which adds a nice caramelized note. The dough can be baked immediately after it's mixed, but for the best results, I always wait at least a day so the dough firms up in the fridge and all of the ingredients have a chance to get to know each other—this makes for a much better cookie, believe it or not. And finally, most importantly, use the best chocolate you can. This is the key to making this recipe shine. Thank you, Toll House for your recipe but ixnay on the Nestle Chips please. Use a high quality 62- to 75-percent cacao chocolate and you will taste the difference. 

We all really loved these cookies. I did use Toll House chips, because it was what I had in the house. If I were selling these at a bakery I would use higher quality chocolate, but for Ray and the boys, Toll house is just fine. The cookies are big, sturdy and chewy. I trusted the recipe with the addition of milk chocolate. It really does add the caramelized note. So good! I also made smaller size cookies, using a 2 tablespoon scoop, baking about 11 minutes, and used them for homemade ice cream sandwiches. The cookies were slightly cooled. The combination of warm, gooey chocolate chips with the cool ice cream was fantastic! It was cute because H took one bite of his sandwich and said this recipe should go on the "keeper" list. 

Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Flour Bakery+ Cafe

1 cup (2 sticks; 224 grams) unsalted butter 
¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
¾ cup (175 grams) light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (160 grams) bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (9 ounces; 250 grams) chopped semisweet chocolate
½ cup (2.5 ounces; 70 grams) finely chopped milk chocolate

If you're baking the cookies on the same day you prepare the batter, heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or mixing by hand with a wooden spoon), beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy, about five minutes. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle itself a few times; the sugar and butter love to collect here and stay unmixed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract on medium speed until thoroughly combined, two to three minutes. Again scrape the bowl and the paddle to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

Mix together the all-purpose flour, bread flour, baking soda and salt. Add both chocolates to the flour mix and toss to combine. Turn the mixer to low speed (or continue to use a wooden spoon if mixing by hand) and slowly blend the flour-chocolate mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Mix until the flour and chocolate are totally incorporated and the dough is completely mixed.

For best results, scrape dough into a container and let rest in the refrigerator for a day before baking. The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven. Drop the dough in ¼-cup balls onto a baking sheet about two inches apart. Press dough balls down slightly with the palm of your hand. If the batter does not fit all on one tray drop cookies on a second baking sheet and bake when the first tray is finished. If you have only one sheet tray, bake one batch and then cool the tray by running it under cold water before baking a second batch. Bake until cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. The unbaked dough can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. 

*Molli's Note: These are better if you let the dough rest for a day, but were very good when the dough refrigerated for a couple of hours. I also use parchment paper on the baking sheet for easy removal/ clean-up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Zucchini Brownies

She's B-A-A-C-K!

I know, it has been a while.  A girl starts getting into long-distance running, work gets in the way, the boys are into more activities - LIFE! I missed blogging, so here I am.

We got A LOT of zucchini in our last box from the CSA, not to mention that we have a hybrid summer squash growing in the garden. A neighbor friend posted this recipe and once I saw all that zucchini, I knew where to put it. Quick note, in ANY recipe that calls for zucchini, I sub summer squash if I need/ want to.

The boys helped make these brownies. I think if you asked them what their favorite part was during the process, it would be a tie between using the food processor to grate the zucchini and making/ frosting the brownies. We always do a little "quality control" when baking, so sampling the frosting was a must.

The batter for the brownies is a little different than usual, no eggs. It is also a little dry until you add in all the zucchini. Then it is the consistency of a traditional brownie batter.

They are quick to put together outside of the grating of the zucchini.The brownies are moist and fudgy. The frosting puts these over the top - rich and delicious. 

The recipe is supposed to make 24. Not in this house. 

Zucchini Brownies

Adapted from

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour (I like baking spray with flour) a 9x13 inch baking pan.

  • In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Fold in the zucchini. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until brownies spring back when gently touched. 

  • To make the frosting, melt together the 6 tablespoons of cocoa and butter; set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, blend together the confectioners' sugar, milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in the cocoa mixture. Spread over cooled brownies before cutting into squares.