Bagels for Days

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Bagels are such a versatile treat–you can pretty much top them with anything and they’ll be delicious. Cream cheese, jam, peanut butter, avocado, lox, pesto, seriously anything.

Here’s a super-easy recipe via Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Homemade Bagels
Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Yields 6-12, depending on size

INGREDIENTS
1 and 1/2 cups warm water
2 and 3/4 teaspoons Instant Yeast
4 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt

FOR THE WATER BATH
2 quarts water
1/4 cup honey

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon + 3 teaspoons white sugar
3 Tablespoons raisins
egg wash: 1 egg white beaten with 1 Tablespoon of water

METHOD
Quickly whisk in the yeast into the warm water till completely
dissolved. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, mix on medium speed the flour, sugar, and salt for about 30 seconds. With the mixer continuing to run on medium speed, slowly drizzle the bloomed yeast mixture, making sure to scrape out any undissolved yeast with a spatula, getting all of the yeast into the dough.

Turn down to low speed and mix until all the flour has been well incorporated into the dough. The dough will look choppy; once you get it to this point, bump up the speed to medium and mix for 8 minutes. Once done mixing, the dough will be super stiff, that’s OK.

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(Mine somehow managed to resemble the mandrake root in Pan’s Labyrinth. Creeeeepy.)

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(Note: If you’re making cinnamon and raisin-flavored bagels, section off about 1/3 of the mixture and hand-mix the raisins into the dough.)

Otherwise, remove from the mixing bowl and shape the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil and place into the bowl, turning the dough ball to coat all sides with oil. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and place in a warm area of your kitchen to allow the dough to rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The dough should to be noticeably larger.

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Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or SILPAT mats if you have them. Place a wire rack over a third baking sheet.

To shape the bagels, gently punch down the dough if you notice any air bubbles. Turn it out onto a clean surface and divide the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces.

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Shape each piece into a ball and place 4 balls onto the two lined baking sheet. Then, hold up one dough ball and press your index finger through the center of each ball to make a hole, widening it. Cover the shaped bagels with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest as you prep the water bath.

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Preheat your oven to 425°F.

To prepare the water bath, fill a large, wide pan with 2 quarts of water. Whisk in the honey. Bring the water to just-simmering. Once simmering, add in the bagels, about 2-3 at a time, making sure not to overcrowd them. Cook the bagels for about 1 minute on each side, then transfer each bagel to the cooling rack.

To prepare your optional toppings: Use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash on top and around the sides of each bagel, then sprinkle each with your desired toppings.

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Place the bagels on the lined baking sheets, and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through to get an even coloration. The bagels should be golden brown and delicious.

Remove the cooked bagels from the oven and to cool for about 20 minutes before enjoying.

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(Cook’s Note: You can freeze your bagels in an airtight bag. Refrigerated bagels will keep for about 7-10 days.)

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Estudios Picasso, Tequila Gang, Esperanto Filmoj, Sententia Entertainment and Telecinco.)

Pie, Actually

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The first time I had heard the words “Banoffee Pie” were when Keira Knightley’s character, Juliet muttered them in the 2003 film, Love Actually. 

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“Banoffee pie?” she asked.

“No, thanks.” said Mark.

“Thank god. You would’ve broken my heart,” she sighed.

Such irony in that scene, as he was so secretly in love with her.

After watching the movie for the first time in 2004, I immediately investigated this “banoffee pie.” Ban (banana) offee (toffee). What I discovered, a British treat with a crisp, buttery crust, tender bites of banana and dulce de leche, and a soft, pillowy whipped cream topping. The combination is all too irresistible.

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Banoffee Pie
Recipe slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver
Serves 4-8

INGREDIENTS
4.1 ounces butter, melted
8.1 ounces Speculoos cookies (or digestive cookies), crushed into fine crumbs
1 can (10.5 ounces) condensed milk
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 large bananas, sliced 1 1/2 inches thick, on a bias
pinch salt
1 small bar of dark chocolate, finely chopped

METHOD
Make the dulce de leche. First, remove the label on the can. Take the upopened can and place into deep pot and completely immerse the can in water. The can must be completely submerged in the water or it will explode.

Turn the heat on the stove to medium-high. Cover the pot and once the water begins to boil, turn down to a gentle simmer. Set a timer for 1.5 hours, checking frequently to make sure the can is completely covered in water, and pouring in more water if needed.

After 1.5 hours, using a long pair of tongs, carefully flip the can upside-down and return back to the simmering water. Add more water to the pot if needed. Set another timer for 45 minutes. When done, carefully remove the can from the water and allow to cool in room temperature for about 30 minutes before opening. Set aside.

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Mix the melted butter with the cookie crumbs in a bowl. Place the mixture into a pie tin, pressing down to ensure the crust is evenly distributed. Place into the refrigerator for 1 hour.

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While the crust sets, whip the cream in a mixing bowl with a whisk till soft peaks form. Don’t over-mix. Set aside.

After the crust has set for 1 hour, spread the dulce de leche over the base of the crust evenly.

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Layer on the sliced bananas. Add a pinch of salt to the bananas.

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Then frost the top with the whipped cream.

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Sprinkle the top of the pie with the chopped chocolate. Place into the refrigerator to set for at least an hour. Serve.

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(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Universal Pictures.)

West Toast

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It’s so crazy to think about how much of your life can change in one year. 1 year. Last Thanksgiving I spent the entire night working as a cocktail waitress at a thankless job. It was by far the WORST job I have ever had. Luckily, I only stuck around for a month.

At last week’s Thanksgiving, I spent it with some truly awesome friends. We had a delicious meal and plenty of libations. Being away from your family during the holidays is oftentimes hard, but when you have amazing friends, it’s not that bad at all.

My contribution to our Friendsgiving/Thanksgiving meal are these mini Guava and Cream Cheese Tartlets (Pop Tart knockoffs), but they’re soooo good. The filling was inspired by this AMAZING Cuban bakery in LA that I used to frequent, called Porto’s. Their Pastelitos de Guayaba (Guava Pastries) are a reason in itself to visit if you’re ever in LA.

The guava filling can be made at home, but I was a bit lazy this time around, and just visited my local Latin American food market and purchased this GOYA Guava Paste package. For $3 it’s a steal. And it’s so good, guys.

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Guava Cream Cheese Tarlets 
(Pastelitos de Guayaba)
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

INGREDIENTS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg (plus 1 egg for egg wash)
2 tablespoons milk

METHOD
Using a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt, working the butter in till the mixture holds together when you press it with your fingers. The mixture will be just a tad bit lumpy, with specks of butter still visible. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and add the egg and milk, mixing till everything is cohesive.

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Split the dough in half. Shape each half into a rough 3″ x 5″ rectangle, smoothing the edges. If making the dough ahead of time, you can refrigerate for up to 2 days; allowing the dough to rest for 15 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Place the first half of the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″.

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Trim off the edges; save the scraps and set them aside, along with the 9″ x 12″ rectangle of dough.

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Proceed by rolling out the other half of the dough, and cut it as you did with the first half.

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Place a rectangle slice of the guava paste and cream cheese onto the center of each marked rectangle.

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Lightly beat the last egg, and brush the outer corners of the surface of each pastry dough. Place the second sheet of dough atop the first, using the tines of a fork to press firmly around each pocket, sealing the dough on all sides.

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If you have dough scraps, press them together into a ball, then re-roll them out. Repeat the rolling and cutting of the dough according to the size of the dough and fill them if you’re able to.

Gently transfer the tarts to a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet tray. Lightly brush the tops of each tarlet, and then place into your oven.

Bake the tartlets for 15 to 23 minutes, or till they’re a light golden brown.

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Eat Like a Viking

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Much of the history surrounding the origin of the Danish aebleskive is shrouded in mystery—and to some, in ancient Scandinavian folklore. Legend has it that during the days of the Vikings, after the warriors returned home, hit hard in battle (many poorly wounded and hungry) mixed together flour with milk, and cooked the batter inside the hollows of their iron shields and horned helmets (which, too, were dented and broken) over an open fire.

The result: A delicious golf ball-shaped cake, golden on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Today, aebleskiver (plural) which roughly translates to “sliced apples” are enjoyed by just about anyone in every corner of the world. Topped simply with powdered sugar, filled with delicious lingonberry jam, or dipped in a creamy lemon curd—the possibilities with these apple-shaped delights are endless. For my first solo (and best!) attempt at aebleskiver-making (I can briefly remember a short lesson on making them in culinary school), I decided to pair a simple aebleskive recipe with an of-the-moment curd. While we’re still in a weird transitional season from late-fall to winter fruits, I made a delicious pomegranate-lemon curd that pairs perfectly with this recipe.

Cooking with a special aebleskiver pan makes this recipe so much easier, but I used a mini muffin pan, and it worked out PERFECTLY.

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Aebleskiver (Danish Pancakes)

Yields 16
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats

INGREDIENTS
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup half and half
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
Aebleskiver pan (found in select cooking supply stores, like Sur La Table)
or, use a mini muffin pan (which I did.)

METHOD
Whisk together the AP flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter until just-combined. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, don’t overmix, as it should be slightly lumpy.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites till stiff peaks form,  about 5 minutes. Then fold in the whipped egg whites into the lumpy batter.

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If you have an aebleskiver pan, place the pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter evenly to each well of the mold, and once the butter starts to bubble, add 2 heaping tablespoons of batter. Allow the aebleskiver to cook till the bottoms are golden, about 4 minutes, then flip and continue cooking till the tops are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer cooked pancakes to a plate covered with foil to retain heat. Repeat steps till the rest of the pancake batter is used.

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If you DON’T have an aebleskiver pan, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place a mini muffin pan into the oven to heat up. Once your oven is up to temperature, remove the muffin pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into each mold well, then add about 2 heaping Tablespoons of pancake batter into each well. Place into the oven and allow the aebleskiver to cook till the bottoms are golden, about 3 minutes. Once you see that the bottoms are golden, remove from the oven and flip each pancake onto the other side.

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Raise your oven’s temperature to 425 degrees, and once heated up, place the aebleskivers back into the oven to finish cooking for another 3-5 minutes, till golden brown. Once done, immediately transfer the cooked aebleskiver to a plate covered with foil to retain heat, and repeat the steps till the rest of the batter is used.

Garnish with Pomegranate-lemon curd. (Recipe here)

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Curd UP!

Pomegranate-Lemon Curd
Yields about 2 cups
Recipe Slightly Adapted from Baking A Moment

INGREDIENTS
1/8 cup cornstarch
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon water
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 pomegranate, juiced
3/4 cup water
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

METHOD
Whisk together the first five ingredients into a small bowl till smooth.

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Place the juice from the pomegranate, water and the lemon juice in a pot over medium-low heat, and bring to a simmer.

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Slowly pour in about a 1/4 cup of the heated juices into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to combine. Add another 1/2 cup of the hot liquid, whisking till the egg mixture is warm to the touch.

Carefully pour in the tempered egg mixture into the pot with the remaining hot liquid, whisking constantly. Cook the mixture gently, stirring constantly to avoid lumps and adjusting the heat temperature accordingly.

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Whisk in the cold butter and lemon zest, then transfer the mixture into a bowl to cool.

Serves well as a filling for cake or this Aebleskiver recipe.

Bao Down

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Gua Bao
is a Taiwanese street food, comprised of a steamed bun, braised meat, and other fillings. I was first introduced to these teeny-tiny bites of delight while I worked for a food truck in San Francisco. Every weekend our truck met with other food trucks at Fort Mason hosted by Off the Grid, a Bay Area-based food and music event planner of sorts, bringing together only the best local food trucks at different venues weekly throughout the Bay. Off the Grid events were super fun to work because we were always busy and we got to meet some really awesome and talented people in the food truck community. One of my favorite trucks that I became a huge fan of was Chairman Bao, food truck that specialized in gua bao. A light and fluffy steamed bun with a tender, crisp slice of pork belly, with a nicely pickled crunch of daikon. So many excellent flavors all in one bite. You can’t help but want more.

This week I put my own spin on gua bao with braised pork belly, sweet pickled papaya and spicy pickled cucumbers.

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FOR THE BUNS
Recipe slightly adapted from Food52
Yields 16

INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup water, room temperature
2 1/8 cups flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup reserved pork fat, room temperature (you can use bacon or pork belly fat)

METHOD
Set up a stand mixer with a dough hook. Place the yeast and water together and mix just to incorporate to activate the yeast. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Then add in the flour, sugar, milk powder, Kosher salt, baking powder, baking soda and fat and mix on low for about 10 minutes. After the mixing cycle, your dough should be gathered into a ball. Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled medium-sized bowl, wrapped in plastic wrap. Keep the bowl in a warm area of your kitchen and allow the dough to rest for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

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Once the dough has rested and risen, transfer it onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a sharp knife to divide the ball in 2 equal-sized pieces.

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Then divide each half into 4 equal-sized pieces, making 8.

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Roll each piece into mini logs, then cut each log in half, making 16 pieces total.

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Each piece should weigh about 25 grams each and be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Then roll each piece into a ball and place on a baking sheet. Loosely wrap the sheet tray with plastic wrap and allow to rise for a half-hour.

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After the buns have rested, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 4-inch-long oval. Brush each bun lightly with oil, and lay a chopstick horizontally across the center of the oval and fold it over onto itself to form a bun. Gently pull out the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and place it onto a sheet tray, allow all the rolled out buns to rest for another 45 minutes.

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Set up a steamer on top of your stove. Steam your buns in batches so the steamer isn’t overcrowded, and steam them for about 8 to 10 minutes. Quickly remove each bun and place on a sheet tray to cool.

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The steamed buns can be used immediately or kept frozen in Zip-Lock bags for up to 2 months. Reheat the frozen buns on a stove top steamer for about 3 minutes, or until soft and warmed all the way through.

FOR THE FILLING
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4-8

INGREDIENTS
1/2 pound slab skin-on pork belly
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stub ginger, peeled and minced
3 each star anise
2 each Thai chili
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup Asian rice wine
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup light soy sauce
3 cups water

METHOD
Heat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet on medium-high. Once hot, place the pork belly into the pan and allow to sear for 5 minutes (or until light golden brown) before turning the belly onto the other side. Allow to sear for another 5 minutes, flipping the belly till all sides are seared nicely.

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Remove the belly and place onto a plate. Lower the heat to medium, then add the oil, garlic, ginger, and chilis. Toss for 2 minutes. Then add the star anise and brown sugar. Stir for a minute then deglaze with the wine. Stir till the sugar is melted.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly. Return the belly to the pan and turn down the heat to low. Carefully cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil. Allow to braise for at least 1 hour. Check the belly for tenderness after 1 hour. Cook till fork tender.

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FOR THE PICKLES

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Spicy Pickled Cucumbers
Yields 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 Thai chili, julienned
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

METHOD
Heat the vinegar, sugar, chili, salt, pepper flake and sesame seeds in a small pan till boiling. Place the sliced cucumbers in a Mason jar or deli cup, then pour the boiling brine into the jar then cover. Allow to sit in room temperature for an hour, then keep in the refrigerator.

Sweet Pickled Papaya
Yields 2 cups

INGREDIENTS
1 small green papaya, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

METHOD
Bring the vinegar, sugar, water and salt to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine into a Mason jar or deli cup with the papaya. Cover tightly and allow to sit in room temperature for 1 hour. Then keep in the refrigerator.

Pickles can be used once cooled, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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TO ASSEMBLE
16 steamed buns
braised pork belly, sliced into 16 pieces
hoisin sauce
spicy pickled cucumbers
sweet pickled papaya
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

METHOD
Place a slice of the pork belly into the bun, smear a little hoisin sauce on the pork. Put 3-6 cucumber slices and about 3 tablespoons of papaya on top of the pork. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

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Un Dolce Finale

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To complete a rather heavy (yet balanced!) Italian feast, inspired by the glorious meal shown in the classic film, Big Night, I wanted to incorporate a light and fruit-forward dessert. When planning the final course for this special meal, I consulted with my good friend, Brett, who is the pastry chef assistant at a superb Italian restaurant in Oakland that I used to work with him at. He immediately suggested a strawberry sorbet topped with some Cava or Prosecco. It was pure genius. This recipe of my Strawberry Sorbet from a few years’ back is my go-to. Just make the sorbet a day-ahead and pour a bit of Prosecco tableside and just see how delighted your guests will be!

Sorbetto alla Fragola con Prosecco (Strawberry Sorbet with Prosecco)
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1 quart strawberry sorbet (recipe HERE)
1 bottle Italian Prosecco

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METHOD
Make the sorbet at least 1 day before serving.

When ready to serve, leave the sorbet out in room temperature for about 20 minutes to soften a bit. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop 2-3 scoops of sorbet into each bowl. Pour enough Prosecco over sorbet to just cover. Repeat for all bowls. Serve!

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Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots are property of Rysher Entertainment and Timpano Productions.)

Don’t Mess With Cookie Lyon

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Jamal

By a show of hands, who’s also obsessed with Fox’s television show, Empire? I just can’t get enough. I was introduced to the show via some friends at work who also share my love for VH1’s Love and Hip Hop.

“Oh girl, you think Love and Hip Hop is good, you definitely need to watch Empire. You’ll thank me later,” one friend said.

“You’re not watching Empire yet? Get on it, girl! It’s like a scripted, well acted version. But 1000-plus times better. Trust me,” another friend exclaimed.

So I gave in to the peer pressure and watched the pilot that night. My expectations were exceeded. Are you kidding? This show is phenomenal. (Know that I don’t use that term lightly.) My girl Taraji P. Henson is KILLING IT as the lead heroine, Cookie Lyon. Mama is fierce! And I just can’t get over how gorgeous Jamaal (portrayed by actor Jussie Smollett) is.

(Side note: Did anyone realize a young Jussie was in THIS movie?) The relationship he and Cookie have is so beautiful to watch, like how a mama lioness watches over her cub. This show proves that a mother’s love is stronger than just about anything.

With all this talk about Miss Cookie, I got to thinking: It’s been a few weeks since I’ve made some actual cookies at home. So I got to the kitchen and started baking away. These cookies are such a great twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie. The brown butter deepens the flavor and the pecans add spice with a nice bit of crunch.

(Editor’s Note: All television show screenshots are property of 20th Century Fox.)

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Brown Butter Spiced Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cookie recipe slightly adapted from Joy the Baker
Spiced pecan recipe by A Streetcar Named Devour
Yields about 3 dozen cookies

FOR THE SPICED PECANS

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup pecans, whole

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl and thoroughly coat the pecans.  Spread the pecans into a single layer onto the sheet tray. Place into the oven for 15 minutes. Once done, remove and allow to cool.

FOR THE COOKIES

INGREDIENTS
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (recipe above)

METHOD
Place half of the butter into a medium skillet. Melt the butter over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally to avoid burning. The butter will begin to foam while cooking. Once the butter starts to smell nutty and the color is light amber, it’s done. Carefully remove the butter and pour it into a small bowl to cool down.

While the brown butter cools, mix the other 1/2 cup of butter with the sugars, until the mixture is well incorporated. Add in the vanilla and the egg. Once cool, pour in the brown butter. Mix until smooth. Slowly add in all the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Place the dough into a sealable container and into the refrigerator to cool for at least an hour. Even better if it’s overnight.

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When you’re ready to bake the dough, preheat the oven to 350°F. Scoop the refrigerated dough in 2-tablespoon scoops onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet tray, lining them so that they have plenty of space as they will spread considerably once baked. Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes, or until they’re a pretty golden brown. Remove from the oven, and allow them to cool for at about 5 minutes.

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