Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cranberry, Apple, and Pear Crumble

I asked Mom what dessert we were going to make for Thanksgiving this year. Thanksgiving dinner is a big deal at our house - my mom (expert cook), sister (expert baker), and I (expert, uh experimenter and mess maker) always go all out.

So when Mom nonchalantly replied, "Oh we're not going to make dessert this year because someone gave us a store bought pecan pie," I was utterly blown away by the thought of such heresy.

I might have been slightly hyper, having finished my last day of preclinical classes in med school (yup, no more classes EVER) and driving all the way home in one go with insufficient sleep (thus having had a lot of caffeine)

Chef Uy: We're not making dessert? Both Shobe and I are back home and you dare suggest we not make our own dessert??? What madness!!! What kind of Uy Thanksgiving is that??? Dessert is our middle name!!!

Of course, my sister and I fixed that no dessert problem real quick (store bought pies don't count!)
I basically took whatever we had and invented something. I've always wanted to try eating cranberries with something and adapted from this from Simply Recipes minus pie crust since I didn't want to bother with making a crust. We ran out of apples so I tossed in Asian pears as well. I really love the tartness the cranberry brings (and bonus, it prevents UTIs too). The trick to a golden crust and non soggy filling is baking it long enough.

Since it was dark, taking the photo was a nightmare but I managed to collect the last remaining light for this pic. The actual dinner was too dark (and my hungry, hungry family was telling me to hurry up so we could eat already), so those recipes will wait for another year!

Ingredients
FILLING
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 orange zest
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
18 teaspoon salt
4 apples, sliced and peeled
2 pears, sliced and peeled

TOPPING 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
3-4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup, old fashioned oats (not instant)
1/4 cup granola
1/3 cup, walnut pieces

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl mix sugar with flour, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add cranberries, apples, and pears, and mix well. Let sit for 10 min to let juices out; drain the liquid to avoid a soggy crumble. Place filling into baking dish.

In another bowl mix brown sugar, flour, oats, granola, and walnuts. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub with your fingers until the mixture forms small lumps. Sprinkle topping over the filling.

Set baking dish over a cookie try to catch the drippings and bake until juices bubble, 35-45 minutes. If pie browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Strawberry Ice Cream with White Chocolate and Graham Crackers

I've wanted an ice cream machine forever but couldn't bring myself to buy one, because of
1) its unipurpose function
2) how much space it would take in my tiny kitchen cabinets and freezer
3) fact that I could have ice cream anytime and gain a zillion pounds <-- most important

Those highly logical reasons were enough to stop me.

BUT then my classmate, Jebran, starting bringing his homemade ice cream/deliciousness to school, and it was so heavenly. HE ruined store bought ice cream for me. Everything else just tastes overly sweet now.
So I borrowed his ice cream machine and made this for a class picnic. Never mind that it was the coldest day of the year. Adapted from Food.com.

Ingredients
1 pint strawberries
3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
Combine strawberries and lemon juice.

In large mixing bowl beat eggs until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add 1/2 cups sugar and vanilla, mixing well. Bring heavy cream and milk to a boil on stovetop. Slowly pour hot milk into the egg mixture to cook (but not scramble) the eggs.

Add strawberries puree and mix. Pour into ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's instructions.
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Peach Chamomile Panna Cotta

Panna cotta (cooked cream) is a softly set pudding made of cream, sugar, and gelatin. There's a lot of variations; it can be a lighter and softer pudding by using milk or super rich and thick with heavy cream. Adapted panna cotta recipe and info from The Kitchn.
It's an easy and beautiful dessert: just pour and set, but you can get all fancy with layers.

I had some peaches and wanted to experiment with interesting combinations - I mixed it with chamomile and honey to make the gelee. B and my sister thought it was a weird combo when I first told them, but I liked it. You can't go wrong with fruit and tea as a refreshing combo!

To make the angled look, I just filled the glasses halfway with cream and precariously balanced the glasses in an empty egg carton in the fridge until set. Then I straighten it and add the remaining layer.
It took a lot of extra effort and time since I ran out of gelatin halfway, so the cream part didn't quite set as much as I wanted. But it still looked ok with help from the freezer (by the way, you should not actually freezing panna cotta since its texture becomes icy)

Gelatin 101
- Let gelatin sit for a few minutes in liquid so it "blooms" — the gelatin grains swell and absorb liquid. 
- Add gelatin to a warm base (if added to a cold base, it may set too quickly and not disperse evenly - hence gelatin chunks)
- The gelatin will set quickly; if it's set too early for you, just heat it up gently (it won't damage its ability to solidify) 
- It's best to add the gelatin as one of the very last steps in cooking
- The strength depends on how long, how cold, and how much gelatin powder you add

Fun fact: Panna cotta originated in Northern Italy, where the earliest recipes mention simmering the cream with fish bones (the collagen would set the cream). Yummy!
Ingredients
PANNA COTTA:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin, bloomed
1 1/2 cups cream (any combination of heavy cream / half and half)
1 tsp vanilla extract

PEACH GELEE:
1 cup strong chamomile tea
1 cup peaches, pureed
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons gelatin powder

Directions
PANNA COTTA:
Let the gelatin sit in a few tablespoons of water for about 1 to 2 minutes until it "blooms." Heat the milk, cream, and sugar til it just barely boils. Add the gelatin and stir until it dissolves (don't boil it).

Whisk in the cream and any flavorings, like vanilla.  Pour into container. Refrigerate until set (to make it set an angle, lean glasses in a egg carton).

PEACH GELEE:
Bloom gelatin. Combine chamomile tea, peaches, and honey in a blender. Microwave your puree til hot, then add gelatin so it dissolves evenly. Let it chill then add to set panna cotta (you don't want it to set but you also don't want want it to melt your panna cotta). Refrigerate until set.
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Friday, November 22, 2013

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos rancheros (fried eggs with a chili sauce on corn tortillas) is a common mid-morning food on rural Mexican farms. It's a Tex-Mex breakfast you see everywhere in Texas (amazingly, adding gobs of sour cream, cheese, and lettuce is actually not really an indigenous Mexican dish)
The term Tex-Mex cuisine came up in the 1970s, and what "Mexican food" people refer to is often really Tex-Mex.

Tex Mex is characterized by heavy use of shredded cheese, meat (particularly beef and pork), refried beans (and let's not forget the very generous portions). Also, the sheer amount of carbs (think nachos, tacos, and tortilla wraps) is more Tex Mex than Mexican. Tex-Mex has imported flavors from other spicy cuisines, such as the use of cumin (an Indian spice that is not really used in traditional Mexican recipes).

Texas-style chili con carne, chimichangas and fajitas are all Tex-Mex inventions. (sources from here and here)
I picked this dish because I'm attempting the $4.50 a day diet (yes, $4.50 a day total, not per meal), which is how much you get in food stamps from the government. It's definitely hearty and filling (maybe too filling....I'm not used to eating so much carbs in one meal, hence food coma. I'm not ever gonna have so much rice, tortillas and beans in one meal again)
Corn tortillas have corn (surprise surprise), and are more versatile than flour tortillas since they can be eaten as is, or fried to make corn chips, taquitos, or hard shell tacos.  Even better they have less fat, sodium, and calories than flour. Trying to be nutritious AND economical.

Ingredients
Pico de Gallo: 
1/2 medium onion, chopped (half cup)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (or fresh)
1/2 avocado
2 jalapenos
fresh cilantro, chopped
chili powder, paprika, ground cumin, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Assemble:
Olive oil
3 eggs
1/2 cup pinto beans, cooked or from can
3 corn tortillas
shredded cheese (colby jack, chedder, or mozerella)
fresh cilantro, to garnish

Directions
Combine all the ingredients for the pico de gallo. Adjust spices to taste.

Prepare the tortillas by heating them in a large non-stick skillet with olive oil on medium high.  Heat minute or two on each side until softened with pockets of air bubbles (alternatively, microwave them).

For the fried eggs, heat olive oil on the pan on high heat. Crack eggs into the skillet and cook for 5 minutes, depending on how cooked you want them.

To serve, top tortilla with beans, fried egg. Top with pico de gallo and garnish with cilantro.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I have never made upside down anything before. I actually didn't really understand what "upside down" part of it was til quite recently. Basically it's caramelizing fruit in a skillet then pouring cake batter on top. Then flip it and tada! A fancy looking cake.

History digression: Pineapple upside down cake (aka pineapple glacé and pineapple skillet cake) was thought to have first appeared in the 1920s. Coincidentally, that's when canned pineapple became huge, thanks to Jim Dole's Hawaiian Pineapple Company (yep the same Dole canned fruits you see today). He canned 95% of the crop which led to a huge expansion of the canned pineapple market (source).
I've seen variations with all kinds of fruit, but pineapple is the classic one (with or without maraschino cherries)

Fun fact: The term "maraschino cherries" refers to the method of preservation. It's kinda scary how they make them - first bleach in a brine solution with sulfur dioxide and calcium chloride then soak in sugar and red food coloring/FD&C Red 40 (yikes!) And I always thought maraschino was a just type of cherry like Bing or Ranier...

I double batched the original recipe from Gourmet so it serves a lot of people, around 16-18. I cut the sugar and the topping by half (the original had way too much butter/sugar topping for me) and used a springform pan lined with foil for easier release rather than a skillet. It's a fairly dense cake, like pound cake, and the pineapple and orange combo was prefect. Alas I didn't have any rum.

This was addictingly good...I ate a lot...probably more than the first year med students whom I baked it baked for.

Ingredients
Caramalized Topping:
1 can pineapple rings in pineapple juice
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar

Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 tablepoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange or rum extract
1 orange zested
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

Special equipment:
1 springform pan, lined with foil (The foil prevents leaking while baking and makes it easier to invert the cake)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make topping:
Melt butter in skillet. Add sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, until browned (~5 min). Pour caramelized sugar into a springform pan lined with foil. Arrange pineapple rings on top of sugar mixture.

Make batter:
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl.

Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in extracts, zest, and rum.

Add half of flour mixture and stir until just blended. Add pineapple juice, then stir in remaining flour mixture, until just blended (batter may appear slightly curdled).

Pour batter carefully over pineapple topping. Bake cake until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Remove the springform sides, invert cake onto plate, and peel off the foil. Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Berry Charlotte

Charlottes are one of those cakes that come in all shapes, sizes and forms: bread, sponge cake or biscuits/cookies line a mold, which is then filled with a fruit puree or custard.

I made this for a girl's spa/makeover night (alas, we old med students can't handle sleepovers anymore) because I wanted a really pretty cake. I didn't have enough ladyfingers so I cut them in half and trimmed them with scissors. Although I wanted to make a really tall charlotte, this half size is still a large cake.  
The filling has a lot of flexibility so you can fill it whatever you want. I adapted the mousse from The Little Epicurean. With this healthier version you can definitely taste the yogurt, and I wasn't too guilty about eating it for breakfast. Next time I might make the mousse a little richer with eggs and firm it up with more gelatin.

Creams 101
- Custard is any liquid thickened by coagulation of egg proteins. The consistency depends on the ratio of eggs to liquid, whether whole eggs or just yolks are used, and the type of liquid used
- Pudding is a a liquid thickened with cornstarch
- Pastry Cream is custard + pudding (thickened with cornstarch and eggs)
- Bavarian cream is similar to pastry cream but thickened with gelatin instead of flour/cornstarch, and flavored with liqueur. Bavarian cream is lightened with whipped cream when on the edge of setting up, before being molded. It is chilled until firm, then turned out onto a serving plate.
- Crème anglaise is a light pouring custard used as a dessert cream or sauce
- Mousse is a pudding that is combined with whipped cream or egg whites. Mousse can deflate so its light and airy texture may be stabilized with gelatin.
I held my breath when removing the springform sides, but it stayed up nicely. I had a lot of fun taking these pictures. Tying the satin ribbon was the hardest part out of the entire charlotte making process but I managed to get it eventually.

I confess the best part of making any labor intensive dessert is always the gasps of admiration and excitement. That (and an empty plate) always makes any chef feel proud.

Ingredients
Ladyfingers, cut in half

Berry Mousse:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups plain yogurt
1 1/2 envelopes gelatin (~4 1/2 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons cold water
1 cup berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)
1/2 cup berry jam

Gelatin Glaze:
4 tablespoons cold water
1/2 envelope gelatin, bloomed
1/4 cup berry jam
1/2 cup berries, pureed

Directions
Mousse: Whip heavy cream and sugar to stiff peaks. Gently fold yogurt into mixture.

Fill a small bowl with ice cold water to bloom gelatin for 3-5 minutes. Puree berries with a blender. Place soft gelatin into strawberry puree. Microwave mixture 10 seconds at a time until gelatin has melted; ensure the gelatin is mixed well. Let cool (the gelatin should not be warm, but it should not be set).

Add cooled berry puree and berry jam to the whipped cream and yogurt mixture. Mix until combined.

Assembly: Cut ladyfingers in half with scissors and arrange along the perimeter of a springform pan. Pour berry yogurt mousse evenly in the springform pan, inside the center of the ladyfingers.

Place in refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes (or longer) while you prepare jelly glaze.

Gelatin Glaze: Bloom gelatin in the water for 3-5 minutes. Combined with berry jam and pureed berries; microwave mixture for 10 seconds at a time until gelatin is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature. Pour on top of chilled mousse. Chill for several hours or overnight.
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thai Fish Baked in Banana Leaf and Coconut Rice

Before there was foil...there were banana leaves! Banana leaves are commonly used in a lot of Asian/Southwest Asian and Latin American countries to wrap savory and sweet foods, sealing moisture and giving a fragrant flavor.

They're cheap in Asian markets and I keep them frozen indefinitely until I decide to use them. I had only used them for decoration once, so I was excited to actually cook with them for the first time (adapted from this Fish recipe)
The key to this tilapia dish is the sauce...I marinated mine overnight for maximum flavor. You can make a huge batch of sauce in the blender and freeze it too so it's ready whenever you want.
Wrapping can be a little tricky without toothpicks; I folded the leaves under the fish to keep it wrapped. If you want to be really hardcore, you can make the leaves into boats. Before serving, run the leaves under boiling hot water to get that lovely green color.

Fun fact: Banana leaves contain polyphenols, a chemical also found in green tea. Additionally, they also contain polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme that produces L-DOPA (for you nerds, you can read in this scientific article here) the same drug used in treating for Parkinson's disease.

Thai Fish Baked in Banana Leaf

Ingredients
4-5 fillets tilapia
1 package banana leaves  (or foil)

Coconut Marinade:
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 thumb-size piece ginger, sliced
ground coriander (or cumin and fennel)
basil leaves
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 can coconut milk
2 kaffir lime leaves or 1 tsp. lime zest
1 fresh red chili, sliced
chili powder
juice of 1/2 lime

Preparation
Blend all marinade/sauce ingredients in a blender. Place fish fillets in a large bowl and cover with half the marinade (save the other half). Let it marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour (I did mine overnight).

When fish is done marinating, spread a banana leaf cut approximately 1 foot square. Place one fillet in the center of the leaf. Fold both sides of the wrapping material over the fish, then fold both ends to create a square "packet." Turn it seam-side down to keep sides from opening. Do the same for all the fillets.

Place packets in a glass casserole dish or cookie tray (to catch the drippings in case packets leak) and bake for 15-20 min at 350 degrees, until cooked (flesh will be opaque).

To serve, plunge banana leaves for plating in hot water to turn them bright green, and place fish on top. Warm the remaining curry sauce/marinade and spoon over the fish. Garnish with basil.

Coconut Rice
Since I had coconut juice lying around, this rice was the perfect accompaniment. It's sweet, so of course I'd like it. The toasted coconut gives a nice crunch.

As a note since I use a rice cooker, I don't really use exact measurements. I put my cup of rice in the rice cooker and I fill to the 1 to 1 1/2 line with a random ratio of coconut milk/juice.

Ingredients
1 cup white rice
1 1/4 cup coconut juice
1/2 cup coconut milk
dry shredded coconut, toasted (I used sweetened)

Stovetop: Put rice, coconut juice, and coconut milk on a pot on medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.  Cook until done. Garnish with additional toasted coconut.

Rice Cooker: Put rice, coconut juice, and coconut milk on a pot on medium heat and cook until done. Garnish with additional toasted coconut.
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Friday, November 8, 2013

Tortang Talong (Eggplant Omelette)

Whenever mom asks me what I want when I come home, eggplant torta is always on the list. Mom has this recipe from a really ancient spiral cookbook with a Filipino dish for everyday of the year.

Ok mom just pointed out I always request the same three dishes over and over again... hey childhood food is nostalgic! Although science says the olfactory sense is the most connected with memory (limbic system! neuro pathways!), I think it's the gustatory sense for me hehe. 

I didn't think this was a well known dish, just a random mom's home cooking style recipe, but it apparently pops right up in the google search bar when you type "eggplant torta." In Filipino dishes, torta is basically an omelette stuffed with anything. 
To make this dish you 1) cook the eggplant by roasting it (or boiling like mom does) and then 2) cooking the eggplant in an egg and pork batter. 

Normally you leave the cap of the eggplant on so you can see the eggplant, but the eggplant I had was so large mom chopped it off.

Oh and you HAVE to eat this with Filipino Sweet Chili Sauce. Man, that stuff is addicting.  

Ingredients
2 medium eggplants
salt and pepper
oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small onion, chooped
1/2 lb ground pork
2-3 eggs
all purpose flour of breadcrumbs

Directions
Boil eggplants until soft or roast in the oven until brown at 450 degrees. Season with salt and pepper

In a skillet, heat oil and saute garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Add ground pork and cook until brown. Season to taste. Add two eggs and blend well.

Divide the mixture into 2 and spread over the eggplants. Coat with more beaten egg then cover with flour/breadcrumbs. Fry until set and golden brown.
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mini Green Tea and Chocolate Mousse Cakes

I've always wanted to make something with matcha, but I had such difficulty finding it (well, finding it at a reasonable price - my aunt in Dallas found it for $99 a lb which is way beyond budget). Thus, I was ecstatic when my friend Cecilia wanted to bake and said she had a huge bag of green tea powder from her mom.

I suggested chocolate green tea mousse cake. But for such a tasty combination, it's not very common; finding recipes was quite difficult, and the few recipes I did see used the metric measurement system, so I ended up inventing my own recipe.

The mousse is adapted from Food.com, but I definitely changed it up as I went along (*cough* I made a mistake with the proportions but fixed it without anyone knowing *cough*)

I'm pretty sure our green tea powder wasn't matcha grade, but it still tasted great. And it definitely beats my original plan of grinding up tea leaves ripped from tea bags. Either way, green tea is healthy and full of antioxidants!

So what is this mysterious matcha?
- Matcha is fine powder green tea
- Preparing matcha starts several weeks before harvest; the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. Shade causes the leaves to turn a darker shade of green and make amino acids. The leaves are laid out flat to dry and crumble, becoming tencha (碾茶), which is stone ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.

Matcha is definitely expensive, especially if it's higher grade. Grading is based on

- Location on the tea bush (top of the bush is highest grade)
- Treatment before processing (no sunlight) and stone grinding
- Oxidation (avoid exposure oxygen or it can turn a dull brownish green color)
Isn't this Tokyo plate super cute?!
I would like to get paper collars so I could make the layers even higher. Also, chilling the mousse longer would stabilize it more, but we were so eager to decorate and eat it, we took it out after less than an hour (hence the squashed appearance). 

I was SO happy when I cut the cake and could see all the layers nicely defined. And I may or may not have eaten the cake in one day...
Ingredients
Chocolate Cake (from Chocolate Birthday Cake Recipe) - 1/2 batch my recipe for 3 mini cakes

Green Tea Mousse:
1 tablespoon gelatin, powder
4 tablespoons water
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups full fat milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons matcha green tea powder

Directions
Cake: Bake the cake in each mini springform pan (3) and let cool while preparing the mousse.

Mousse: Dissolve gelatine powder in 4 tbsps of water and set aside.

Beat egg yolks and sugar in a bowl. Heat milk in a pan and dissolve the gelatine in the milk. Gradually add the hot milk to the egg mixture to temper. Add egg and milk back to the saucepan and stir over stovetop with cornstarch to thicken (watch carefully, you don't want the eggs to scramble). Cool the mousse in an ice water bath, stirring constantly. Add the green tea and mix well.

Whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Fold 1/2 of the whipped heavy cream in the green tea mousse mixture. Save the other 1/2 of the whipped cream for the third layer of the mousse (add sugar if desired).

Assembly: Carefully pour the mousse into the springform pan on top of the chocolate layer. Chill in the refrigerator (or freezer) for several hours to set. Once mousse is set, add whipped cream layer on top for the 3rd layer. Dust with matcha green tea power or coca powder.
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Friday, November 1, 2013

Nutella Stuffed Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Men are simple creatures.

Chef Uy:  I want to send you a care package! What do you want? 
B: Can I have chocolate chip cookies?
Chef Uy: But that's so... simple. I wanna make something fancy!
B: Simple is good! You can't go wrong with classic chocolate chip cookies!

Ok so these are a teensy bit fancier than your average chocolate chip cookies for two reasons.

First, I browned the butter. You need to watch your butter closely as it heats up... nothing happens for a long time, than BAM, browned butter spontaneously arises. Usually butter is creamed with the sugar for fluffiness- but this butter is melted, so I'm not sure how it changes the end result. The nutty browned butter smells is quite spectacular though.

Secondly, these chocolate chip cookies are stuffed with Nutella (cappuccino Nutella to be exact!). It's really messy to "stuff" the cookies and the Nutella did not stay inside nicely. Some tips are to really flatten out the cookie dough before wrapping the Nutella, chill the dough and Nutella, and don't make them huge.

The cookies were an interesting texture; more like a shortbread than a classic cookie for some reason, neither crispy (how I like it) nor soft and chewy (how B likes it), so I'm not too sure what happened with the cookie part. Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

PS. Next time I would definitely add more Nutella and chocolate chips. 
PPS. Post office prices for shipping anything is really quite outrageous these days!

Ingredients
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 jar of Nutella, chilled in refrigerator

Directions
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Optional Step: To brown butter (step by step directions with photos here), melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly. The butter will begin to foam and eventually brown on the bottom of the saucepan; keep whisking and remove from heat as soon as the butter turns brown (you'll see brown particles on the bottom and smell a nutty aroma). Set aside to cool.

Shortcut: You can also just use room temperature butter and proceed to the next step

With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat until just combined. Add chocolate chips.

Chill your dough in the refrigerator for a few hours (or freezer to speed things up if you're impatient like me).

Tip: Chilled dough (and Nutella) is easier to handle

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough is chilled measure about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough ball very thinly into the palm of your hand. Place 1 teaspoon of chilled Nutella in the middle and fold dough around it; gently roll into a ball. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and flatten gently.

Bake the cookies 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
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