3/23/15

ABK's Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies








Hey. You know how I was obsessed about perfecting the chocolate chip cookie? And how I made batch after batch until I created the Tried and True Chocolate Chip Cookie??  If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know what I'm talking about. If not, read these posts: Post One CC Cookies and Post Two, updated Tried and True CC Cookies

A few months ago, I made a batch of cookies and put them on my Instagram. If you're not following along there, come join me! I post every day (almost) and share the latest and greatest goings on in my kitchen. Anyway, I posted a photos of my CC Cookies one day on Insta, and a reader said - you should try melting a square of caramel on top.  Well, if that wasn't the greatest idea ever! Add a little coarse salt.  Genius. 
Not me. The cookie. 
If you want to take the humble, but always crowd fave cc cookie to a whole new level, try the ABK Salted Caramel CC Cookie. You're going to love it. 






ABK's  Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies
A Bountiful Kitchen

* Note- the first batch I cooked with the caramel on top of the dough the whole time the cookie baked. The second batch, I made following my recipe directions, bake cookie, remove, add caramel and cook a couple more minutes. This is the reason some of the caramel looks more melted on some of the cookies.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened *
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt ( I prefer coarse salt)
2 cups  or 1 (12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips, I prefer Guittard Milk Chocolate for this recipe
Peter's Caramel (see note below) or individual pieces of soft caramel (see note below) Kraft caramel not recommended
additional coarse salt for top of cookies

Preheat oven to 375° F. If using convection, preheat to 375 as well.
For regular oven, place rack in middle of oven. When using a convection oven, you should be able to bake on all racks at one time.
Cut butter into pieces ( about 2 tablespoons each) and place in mixing bowl. I use a Kitchen Aid and power it on 2 (low).  After a few seconds, add granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract. Mix on low speed until creamy (this takes just a few seconds). Add eggs, beating just until incorporated and smooth.  Never turn the beaters on high. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and bottom of the bowl to insure all ingredients are incorporated.
Dump 2 cups of the flour, soda, salt and chocolate chips all together into bowl with butter mixture. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour to the top of this mixture. Slowly mix the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips together.  Do not over mix.  Turn the dough with a rubber spatula so the bottom of the dough is mixed into the top of the dough. This will insure the flour is mixed in properly and the chips are distributed evenly.
Using a cookie scoop, drop onto un-greased baking sheets, or baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Place 6 scoops of dough on each baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand.
If using convection, bake for 7 minutes. If using regular oven, bake at 375 for 8-9minutes. Cookies should be slightly golden. Remove from oven and place a piece of caramel on top of the cookie. Using the block Peter's Caramel, I cut off a slice, then tore off individual pieces, about the size of a quarter. don't press down on the cookie, just place the caramel on top. Place back in oven and bake for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until top is set and caramel is a bit melted. Do not over bake! Remove from oven. Sprinkle each cookie with a bit of coarse sea salt.
Cool on baking sheets completely.
Yield 18 large cookies.
Tips:
(or my mini-epistle on cc cookie making and baking)
-Only use butter. Unsalted is best. The butter should be more firm than room temperature butter. I take it straight out of the fridge, and microwave it for about 20 seconds.
-*Our altitude is about 4,400 ft. So, I use about 2 3/4 cups flour total. The original Toll House recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups. If you are at sea level, you will probably need less flour than the 2 3/4 cup.
-Don't over beat the butter-sugar mixture, or the batter will become too soft, and your cookies will not be beautiful and puffy. They will resemble pancakes. 
-Don't sift the flour.
-There is usually a notable difference between using a convection and a standard oven. If you bake at the same temperature, for the same amount of time, the convection cookie will be done, with a beautiful, golden, slightly crispy outer layer. Still soft on the inside. And it will be taller than the cookie baked in a standard oven. Not everyone has a convection oven- if you don't, you can still bake a great cookie using a standard oven!
-I think two of the biggest mistakes made while baking cookies are:
1-Over mixing. This will cause the batter have too much air incorporated, producing a fluffy, instead of a chewy cookie.
2- Over bakingUnder baking is good! Not under baked to the point the cookie is wet and doughy, but just until the top sets, and the dough looks like it has a bit of a crust.
-Chocolate chips - For semi sweet,  I use Nestle Semi Sweet chips. You can't go wrong here. But for Milk Chocolate, we prefer Guittard . The chips are called Maxi Chips and are sold in a silver colored bag.
-If the cookie spreads too much, or the edges are not even, I take a small spatula and push the edges inward to create a cookie that is round. This has to be done immediately after removing from the oven.
-I purchased Peter's Caramel, a dipping and cooking caramel at Orson Gygi in SLC in a 5 lb block. You may also use other brands of caramel. I do not recommend using caramel sauce, the cookies will not set up properly. Readers have also reported that Kraft caramels do not work in this recipe. The caramel softens while cooking, but does not soften enough to spread, and then hardens too much after cooling.
- High Altitude info: Not recommended-directions on Nestle Choc Chip package for high altitude- I have tried this variation, and don't like the result. The cookies aren't quite sweet enough, and have a crispy more cake like texture. Here are the directions on the package: (again I do NOT recommend using this method, but have printed it here as an FYI)  Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.
-Last tip. Mound the cookie into a ball. I make them about the size of a golf ball. I use a cookie scoop, because it's easier for me. For years, I just used a spoon, and then shaped them by hand. Make sure to flatten the cookie just a bit before baking. To yield 18 cookies use a  2 1/4 inch scoop.

3/21/15

Bowtie Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream























I love recipes that are simple enough for a weeknight, but  are also special enough to be served to dinner guests. This recipe hits the jackpot for a dish that falls into both categories. 
My friend Laurie, also famous for a few other recipes on this blog (Laurie and Amy's Amazing Chocolate Cake,  Laurie's Amazing Carrot Cake,  Laurie's Creamy White Chili,  Laurie's Lemon Bars ) gave me this recipe. If you're new to ABK, here's a tip- anything with this woman's name on it is amazing and worth making. 
This dish is perfect for almost any occasion. I mean, really now. Who doesn't love pasta, cream, tomatoes and cheese?? 
Throw in a little sweet Italian sausage. Perfection in a bowl. 
Oh, and I forgot to mention. It takes less than 30 minutes start to serve. 
You're going to love this. 
And your family will too. 


Bowtie Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream
Laurie Cutler (with slight alterations and additions)

1- 1 lb package bow tie pasta
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb fresh mushrooms, washed and sliced
3- 14.5 oz cans Italian style diced tomatoes, drained 
1 1/2 cups heavy cream 
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
additional Parmesan or Romano cheese, fresh grated


Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions. Drain, toss with a little olive oil and set aside. 
Using medium-medium high heat cook sausage, red pepper flakes, chopped onion and sliced mushrooms in large pan until sausage is browned a bit, breaking up sausage into bite size chunks while cooking. This takes about 5 minutes. Add garlic during last minute of cooking.  Drain the grease. Pat sausage mixture with paper towels to remove excess grease from meat. 
Stir in tomatoes, cream and salt. Simmer until mixture is thickened a bit, about 8-10 minutes. Add about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese to sauce.  
Stir cooked pasta into sauce, or pour sauce over cooked pasta on platter. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. 
Serves 6 as a main dish
See tips below for making this lower in fat. 

Tips:
-I use a mixture of part sweet Italian sausage and part spicy sausage. 
-You may use part half and half, and part cream.
-I have used both Italian chopped tomatoes, or cans of plain chopped tomatoes. 
-To lighten this up, you could use 2-3 chicken breast halves and all half and half. Crush two of the cans of tomatoes before adding to the pan with a masher, or pulse in a blender for a few seconds. 
-When tomatoes are in season, use fresh juicy tomatoes, such as beefsteak tomatoes.  Chop several into a bowl, scooping juice into the bowl as well. Measure out about 5 1/2 cups of fresh tomatoes and juice. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, pinch of sugar and any of the following fresh or dried herbs( about 3 tablespoons fresh each, 1 tablespoon dried)  parsley, thyme, oregano. 
-This can also be made in the slow cooker. Cook the sausage, drain and place in slow cooker. Add the rest of ingredients, except the cream. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 
last half hour of cooking, add the cream. Stir and turn temperature to high. Serve as directed over cooked pasta, top with fresh basil. 









3/13/15

ABK's Fresh Strawberry Pie






I originally posted this pie recipe back in 2009, when I was trying to find a recipe for strawberry pie made without Danish Dessert or Jello. I couldn't find one I loved, so I came up with my own version.
This recipe has just a few ingredients, and is so simple to make.


Start with fresh strawberries

Cook a few of the berries, add sugar and cornstarch

add a little strawberry jam
mix the glaze with the fresh berries

dump into the crust



It starts with a home made single pie crust, fresh berries, strawberry jam and a little sugar and cornstarch to thicken the glaze. It tastes like a strawberry pie should.
Hope you love this recipe and enjoy Pi Day tomorrow!







Fresh Strawberry Pie
A Bountiful Kitchen


1- 8 inch baked and cooled pie or tart crust
2   quarts strawberries, washed and hulled, divided
½ cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
red food coloring
Whipping cream

Mash about 1 cup of the strawberries in a small saucepan. Add the sugar and strawberry jam. Stir to dissolve.Whisk in cornstarch, and cook over medium heat until bubbly and mixture begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Add about 5 drops of red food coloring, stir. Set aside to cool. Cut the remaining strawberries in half and place in large bowl. After the sugared mixture is cooled, pour over the fresh strawberries, and mix gently. Pour all of the strawberries into the pie shell. Refrigerate for about 2-3 hours. Top with whipping cream.

Tips:
-Use the freshest strawberries you can find, without bruises or discoloration.
-Serve pie with in about 6 hours of assembling if possible.
-You may use either a single pie crust or a tart shell.
-Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
-Don't forget the whipped cream. Seriously essential.