Soft White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies {A flexible recipe that should be in everyone’s box}

Whenever I tell someone that I’m a chef, the first question following that is usually, “What’s your favorite thing to make?” and/or “What’s your favorite dessert?”

To answer the first, I would have to say Gingerbread Houses. Shocker. Collectively, my favorite things to make are the treats that we all grew up with, and then put a gourmet twist on it. For example, taking something as simple as yellow cake with chocolate buttercream and turning it into the most moist, delectable, perfect balance of rich chocolate to sweet yellow cake. I’ve started a very slow moving project of recipes I want my children to have. Recipes not how to build a sugar showpiece, but recipes for the very best chocolate chip cookie on the block. 
Chocolate chip cookies are a peculiar thing, it’s the same simple ingredients with countless theories. Salted butter, unsalted butter, cornstarch, dump method, refrigerate before baking etc. etc. 
This is one of my favorite go to recipes because I can change it to fit the season or my mood. I like my cookies soft. 

Inspired and Adapted from Two Twenty One
3/4c Unsalted Butter – room temperature (I don’t do salted. I like to control the flavor.)
1/4c Canola Oil
1c Granulated White Sugar
1c Packed Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1tsp. Vanilla Extract
1tsp. Baking Soda
1tsp. Baking Powder
1tsp. Salt
3c. All-Purpose Flour 
1 1/2c(total) Chocolate Chips + White Chocolate Peppermint M&Ms or your favorite “Mix-In”
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream your room temperature butter, canola oil,  and both sugars. Cream until light and fluffy. Light refers to the actual color of the butter. it should lighten to a pale yellow. 
3. Scrape down the bowl and add the vanilla and eggs one at a time. Scrape the bowl between additions. Mix only until combined. 
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour together. 
5. Add flour mix to butter egg mixture in two additions, scrape down between additions. 
6. Stir in chocolate chips by hand with a spatula. 
7. Roll into balls and bake for 9-11 minutes. 
I always tell my chefs when a recipe gives you a time window, make sure you start at the lower end. You can ALWAYS add more time if you need it, you can’t take time away. 
I bake my cookies until the edges just barely start to turn G.B.D. (Golden, Brown, Delicious.) The cookies will continue to bake thanks to “carry-over baking” so it’s okay to pull them out a tad underdone. That’s how I keep my cookies soft. 
I’ve changed these to have chocolate chips + white chocolate peppermint M&M’s, Reese’s Pieces +Chocolate Chips, Straight Chocolate Chips, and they’re my go to cookie for homemade ice cream sandwiches and pazookies. 
 Happy Baking!
xo, Jess

Tahitian Vanilla, Brown Butter Cookies

Hello Sunday!

I’m tanking you guys, vacation is FOUR days away and I’m hanging by my unpainted fingernails. (add that to the to do list.) I usually try to not to tell my mom when I go into work.. or how long I stay there. It only takes one “Oh my sweet baby.” To put into perspective how tired you are. Definitely caved this week, and well Dr. Mom has confirmed this girl is tired. (Are you tired of hearing how tired I am?) Good news is, I’m still happy. Happy and loving every minute in the kitchen.

This weeks Sunday Sweet is the brain child of I need gourmet/fast/I don’t want to go to the grocery store. Which is a bonus if you can’t run to the store. Double bonus if you’re a “complete” eater like me. If I have something sweet I need to counter with salty. Delicate balance.

My Mother taught me that like make up, there really is no substitute for “the good stuff.”
I’ve always loved Nielsen Massey, and been a loyal lover of their Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla.. but there was something about the teal label that pulled at my apron. i.e. Need this now. I’ve been waiting for something “worthy” of my new vanilla and then it hit me. Simple. Butter. 

 Brown Butter.

Brown butter isn’t something you can buy at the store. Don’t worry, it’s incredibly simple to make, and your house will smell like buttery, caramel magic. Not like the movie theater greasy butter, but the magic baking butter. I use unsalted for this very reason. If you haven’t made brown butter before this tutorial is the best one I’ve seen.

After you brown your butter, let it cool for 30-35 minutes. It won’t solidify in this time, but it’s necessary to let it cool so it doesn’t cook your eggs.

1c Unsalted Butter

2 1/3c AP Flour

2tsp Corn Starch

1tsp Baking Powder

1/4tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

1c Packed Brown Sugar

2 Large Eggs

*Preheat your oven to 350*

Start by browning your butter in a pot with tall sides. I turned it down to medium while I combined all my dry ingredients.

Add your brown sugar to the cooled butter. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix again. Another reason why I waited to add the vanilla until after it cooled a little bit is because Tahitian Vanilla is much more delicate than your typical Mexican or Madagascar. Tahitian Vanilla is more of a floral, fruity cherry-like  vanilla. The brown butter in these cookies gives the cookies a more nutty flavor, so I wanted to lighten it up.

(you will be tempted to use this as a sugar scrub.. no judgment if you do..)

Add the butter, sugar, vanilla mixture to your dry ingredients.

Don’t panic if it’s all crumbly. That’s how it’s supposed to look. When you roll the cookies into balls it’ll stay together.

No need to grease the pan here, you’ve got plenty of butter to take care of that. 
Press each ball of dough down a little bit with a fork 
Bake for 9-12 minutes. 
So here’s the thing. Where’s the picture of the final product?? About that. These smelled like magic and I ate four before I knew what was happening. I may or may not have slept-ate another significant portion.. and well they’re gone. 
Without taking the final picture.
Which is saying something. I have a lot of self control, I can taste a pastry without eating all of it, I’m surrounded by delectable sweets on a daily basis. But these cookies pulled me in and it was one of those near-religious experiences where you sit on the kitchen floor in silence, smiling to yourself because it’s just THAT good. 
So forgive me, and trust me.
I promise I’ll update this post as soon as I make them again. 
Bake on Lovelies! 
p.s. So in love with your Three Things on the last post. If you haven’t joined the party go now! 

Stand and Deliver – Kitchen Edition.

I feel like I’ve been in hiding the past two months. I’m exhausted. That’s probably why you’ve been getting mostly recipes instead of life updates. Which is fine and delicious, but my favorite part about blogging is having a record to look back on all that I’ve accomplished.

I think that growing up athletic and constantly learning how to deal with high pressure situations is one of the best things  I could have ever learned. Competing in culinary competitions only helped, regardless of how scared or stressed I was at the time.

I’ve been in stand and deliver mode at work for some time now. Back in June I was asked to write the curriculum and teach a class on cupcakes for our customers at work. No pressure the owner’s of the company trust me to teach an hour long class to their customers without screwing up, while I’m trying to prove I’m an asset to their company. So I agreed ( how could you not?) and got to work. I made countless prep lists, handouts, recipes and timetables how my night was going to go. The original plan was to cap enrollment at 12-15, but so many people wanted to come to the class the night of I had 22, plus several people from corporate to watch 🙂 It turned out to be a really really fun night! I am so grateful for my education and for a job where I can apply it. I had a moment of realization standing there in my chef whites writing an impromptu recipe on the board explaining the stabilizing principles of sugar in a whipped cream frosting where I knew that I deserved every minute of this. I was given this opportunity because I had done the work, and there’s always more to learn, but in that moment these people wanted to pick my brain. Because I know the answers. It was incredibly gratifying. To top it all off, all of my “students” loved the class! One guy told my boss that he loved it so much he wanted to come to all of our classes. They also wrote on the company’s facebook page asking when the next class was. So I get to teach it again in September. I was really proud of myself. I’m currently working with a lovely lady from corporate to get all my notes and lists written down, so that my curriculum can go company-wide and be offered in 19 stores. Mission Accomplished.

  This was as people were leaving, but it was packed ! 
I work as a pastry chef in the store 5 days a week. I also get to work on corporate projects like the cupcake class on the side. Right after the class I was talking to one of the owner’s Mrs. C for blogging purposes and she asked me about German Chocolate Frosting. I make my Dad a German Chocolate cake every year for his birthday, and I love recipe development. So I got to work. There’s just something about the science of baking that grabs me every time. I love percentages and adjustments and the taste testing isn’t so bad either. 

I ended up making some adjustments to #3 and Mrs. C loved it! It’s currently being used in the store as a test run, and we’re finalizing the logistics on it before it goes company wide. Victory number two. 
Last but not least, about two months ago we found out that there was going to be a company wide cookie contest. Each person was to develop an original recipe and get to sell it in the store for four days. The person who sells the most ( as well as a final taste test by the executive board) wins $1000. Second place is $500 and Third is $300. I don’t know why I’ve been so insecure lately about my food, maybe I’ve just been on display quite a bit lately and demanded perfection of myself, but it’s really added a lot of stress to my life. I wanted to do this competition, but in the back of my mind I’m panicking. My brother moved home, my Brother in law and Sister moved to Texas. I’m no where near my family, I’m alone. Who’s going to support me? Everyone else in this competition have people in Utah. Is it even worth it?  I made 17 different variations of cookies during the testing process. Poor Rose choked down countless rejects. One of my favorite conversations with her:
“Your cookies take cake-y” – Rose
“Well your bag’s a fake!” – Jess. 
We don’t play around when we fight. Turns out her bags real and my cookies rock. I finally was able to relax  and think about my cookies last week. I took off my shoes and stopped thinking so hard. I had originally wanted to put a peanutbutter pretzel “gush” for lack of better words on top, but the girl who sold her cookies before me had a similar design with different ingredients. Mine had to be different. I had nothing short of a baking epiphany to put my peanut butter filling on the inside. It may have been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I went with a chocolate chip cookie base, peanut butter filling on the inside, pretzel pieces on top with chocolate and peanut butter striping.
We’ve upped our nutrition game around here and counting calories like crazy. Thank goodness myfitnesspal has an app. I calculated out all the calories so that Rose would sample what I thought was the winner. If we both had 1/4 of a cookie it would only be 50 calories. She agreed to donate 50 calories to the cause.. and then we both realized it was worth it to donate another 50. That’s how I knew this one was the winner 🙂 
 It was a home run. I sold out on almost all 4 days. I had some incredible support! I was teasing my friends Allen and Jill that when C & K moved away they were going to have to adopt me. They led the charge! They came in and bought cookies and came back the next day with friends to buy more. On Saturday I was a little wrapped up in myself, my flag football team had made it to the championship game, it was at 9:30 in the morning. There was no way I could go, I didn’t even ask. It’s just hard sometimes to accept that I have a big kid job and things aren’t as flexible.  I was coming around the corner to stock some more pastries up front, and saw that the entire line from the door to the register was my ward. Buying cookies to support me. Instant tears. I’m not alone, and I’m appreciated. I’m so grateful for them! To top it all off my Dad called the store and ordered cookies. I put them in the mail this afternoon. 475 miles away and he’s still there to help me live out my dreams. Thank you to everyone who has come in to support me!   August 16th is the final taste test, hopefully I’ll have some great news to report! 

I guess I had better stop crying now, I’m so very very grateful to all of you. 

Oscar’s Night

I always think of my best things to blog about when I’m working in the early morning. Unfortunately my laptop isn’t attached to my hip that early in the day. Cinnamon Rolls and Fruit Tarts, well that’s another story.

The activities committee for church asked me to do desserts for our Oscar’s Night. The ward was split up into groups and made their own videos, the plan was to eat a wonderful dinner, screen the videos, and enjoy dessert.

I was dessert. I decided on cupcakes. Since the theme was Oscars I decided to make red velvet to mimic the red carpet. I also decided on a midnight chocolate cupcake with amaretto frosting to break it up a little bit. The red velvet cupcakes were garnished with fondant stars that we’re painted in an edible gold paint. The chocolate cupcakes were by far my favorite. I made chocolate bow ties and top hats to dress up them up. Each was hand painted in silver luster dust to really make them shine.

To give some height to the table I wanted to make 3D sugar cookie statues. I found this awesome tutorial on Bakerella and fell in love. This year I’ve decided to really improve my sugar cookie work and this was right up my alley. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to get the cookie cutter shipped to make them for the event. Then again I am me, and don’t take the word “No” very well. So I did some research. My best option was to build my own cookie cutter. Thank goodness my Momma was in town for the twins arrival. She doesn’t think my projects are crazy. Love that woman.

45 minutes later we were leaving Lowe’s with a 10ft long piece of aluminum siding, clamps, glue and some enthusiasm. An hour later and we had a rocking cookie cutter.

Not to shabby if I do say so myself.

 Now for the drama. It wouldn’t be a successful event without drama now would it? I was spent this week. Between the twins arrival, my family in town. I really didn’t have a whole lot left to give to make this event happen. I really, really wanted to do this. I wanted to show all these people who knew I was a pastry chef what I was truly capable of. There really was no way I wasn’t going to make this happen. 300 cupcakes? I do that in my sleep. Pretty much did. On top of cooking around the clock there was a huge roommate blowout. Nothing that needs to be mentioned here, but it really just added to the stress of finishing the event. Somehow I finished with enough time to shower. My mom came over to help wash dishes and make sure I was put together before it was time to deliver and set up. Did I mention I love her? Let’s not kid ourselves. Wash the dishes certainly means stabilize the hurricane of emotion and exhaustion that was covered in buttercream. I’m so truly grateful she was here.  By the time we finished setting up I had 45 minutes to change and get back to the event. It was critical that I looked good. There was going to be a lot of attention on me. Rather than going home, Mom whisked me away to buy a new dress and look good for the night. In 30 minutes she had an entire outfit picked out for me. I changed inbetween stoplights and painted my toes on the last one. Nothing a can of hairspray and 15minutes can’t fix right?

While I was trying on dresses my mom produced these shoes. Sassy to say the least, and oh so worth it. So grateful for a fun event and my fairy godmother.

Can’t even tell I hadn’t slept in 3 days.