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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about pairs.  So much of the world is replete with pairs.  A pair of jeans, a pair of earrings, a pair of chopsticks, a pair of lungs, Bert and Ernie, Thelma and Louise, Mork and Mindy, Bo and Luke, Bono and The Edge, Ponch and Jon, Tarzan and Jane, Ben and Jerry, fish ‘n chips, PB&J, peaches and cream….you get the picture.  But I really, truly cannot think of a pair I love more, than—Milk and Cookies.

Could anything be more perfect?

I’ve spoken before about how the tradition of after-school milk and cookies didn’t translate across the pond to Ireland.  My beloved Irishman is making up for all those childhood years lost big time as an adult!  To this day, watching him enjoy a simple snack of milk and cookies is like watching a Cirque de Soleil performance–-beyond fascinating.  With delight in his eyes, he savors each cranny of melted chocolate, every leftover buttery crumb; he sips his milk, the way you would a fine wine, timing each sip as if he’s trained for it his whole life.  It’s both hilarious and impossibly endearing.
This recipe for whole wheat dark chocolate chip cookies has emboldened him even further.  “Come onnnnn, just one more; they’re good for us”.  I give in.  I love making these cookies GIGANTIC.  I’m talking 4-5 inches round, almost the size of my entire hand.  This allows for a crispy, outer edge before hitting the eye-rolling-to-the-back-of-the-head, soft, gooey center.  You’ll want a napkin on hand for these monsters.  I serve them warm, individually on a plate, and of course, paired with a tall glass of ice cold milk.

Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, yields 10-12 gigantic cookies
Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

I make small batches simply because I don’t trust myself (or my husband) enough!!  But you can easily double the recipe.  These are best eaten warm from the oven, or later that same day.  Will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.

Use the very best chocolate you can find.  Scharffen Berger 70% Cacao, bittersweet dark is my go-to.  I love adding rolled oats, nuts, orange zest, and/or dried cherries or cranberries, and of course, a sprinkling of good sea salt before baking; it elevates chocolate chip cookies from good, to great.

Music Pairing:  Cookie Monster, C is for Cookie

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4 and 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • good sea salt

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment paper.  

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back any bits of leftover grain.  Add butter and sugars into bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  On low, mix until just blended, about 2 minutes.  Add egg, mixing until combined.  Mix in vanilla.  Add flour mixture and blend on low until barely combined, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl.

Add chocolate, hazelnuts and zest to batter.  Using a wooden spoon, mix until just combined.  Scoop 1/3 cup mounds onto sheet, leaving 3 inches between them.  You should fit 6 on a sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 18-22 minutes for the gigantic cookies and 16-20 minutes for smaller ones, rotating halfway through until cookies are evenly dark brown.  Transfer the cookies, still on parchment, to the counter to cool.

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Our lives are filled with defining moments. For some, it’s taking their marriage vows or seeing their first child being born. For others, it’s being the first to graduate from college in their family or scoring a game winning shot at the buzzer.  As for me, a defining moment arrived the day I had the thrill of opening the oven door to find awaiting before me, my very first loaf of homemade bread! When I held that gorgeous, warm loaf of bread in my hands, time stopped. It did. I swear.

Nooooo way”, I whispered loudly. Followed, I think, by several (louder) WHOO-HOO’s!  There may have been slight jumping up and down involved as well. Even with all the excitement, an unsettling twinge of guilt began to surface. Why? Because the results were so far beyond the effort involved to achieve them, that there was no way it could have been accomplished without cheating. Did T. swap out a loaf from the local bakery without me knowing to spare my feelings? For a split second, I actually thought so. I felt like a cheat. But luckily, I got over it. Fast.

The fact is, this recipe is so ridiculously easy, a child could make it. Literally. One bowl, a few measurements, a couple stirs, and time. That’s it. I’ve made many, many iterations of this fabled no-knead bread. How could you not? It’s been discussed, blogged, scrutinized, analyzed and dissected by just about….well, by just about everyone at this point. I figure, meh, one more can’t hurt. The recipe that follows has resulted from my attempts at trying to implement the best of the best of the revisions and plugging them all into one happy loaf. It’s a cross between a rustic country bread and a San Franciscan sourdough, but with an added hearty punch of crunch from the steel cut oatmeal and nuttiness of the flax seeds. The crust alone can be hailed as a miracle. Smear with good quality, European style butter and you are transported far, far away to your favorite boulangerie.

no-knead-bread

Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread with Flax Seeds and Oats
Tweaked from original recipe by Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery, NY Times Article, and revised articles by Cooks Illustrated and Breadtopia

Though I do have a Le Creuset dutch oven, I’m a little too paranoid to use it given all the discussion regarding the safety of the knobs and the need to swap them out. I’m perfectly happy with the results using my All-Clad cookware. Oh, best to eat this baby the day it comes out of the oven or the crust loses a bit of it’s oompf (if not, you can always wrap it in foil for up to 2 days, and reheat slightly before serving).

Music Pairing: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Yields: One gorgeous lookin’ 1 1/2-pound loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 4 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp table salt or 3/4 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp white distilled vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast

Method

Whisk flour, steel cut oats, flax seeds, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy, sticky ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Lay 12X18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6-8 quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 475 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2 inch-deep slit along top of dough.

Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature before slicing.

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