Perfect Soft-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Perfect Soft-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies l Scarletta Bakes

I confess that I’ve sampled my fair share of prepared chocolate chip cookie dough throughout the years. I purchase the dough, I eat the dough, I bake the dough, I eat the baked dough. So, actually, probably a bit more than my fair share.

And since I’ve been doing this since high school, I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert in chocolate chip cookie dough assessment and consumption. I’ve recently been putting those skills to good use:  in search of easy, easy comfort I’ll hit up the market for a package, come home and force myself to bake off a few cookies, then get out my spoon and go to work on the rest. I know the package says not to. I know someone, somewhere is judging. But I just don’t care.

Thoroughly Creamed l Scarletta Bakes

Lately, however, I’ve noticed something troubling about store-bought cookie dough:  I’ve noticed a mild metallic flavor to the dough. I tried switching brands and I’ve even tried actually baking the dough into cookies (!!!), but that odd, off-putting flavor is still there.

Now please don’t think me a conspiracy theorist or anything, but I do believe that packaged foods, even ones from different brands, tend to reflect market trends; they’re very frequently made with ingredients that are sourced from the same places and are effected by the same economic conditions, so it’s not all together unlikely that cookie dough made by Pillsbury may have similar features, when all is said and done, to those of cookie dough made by, say, Toll House.

Or maybe my palate is just broke.

Either way, I needed to come up with my own chocolate chip cookie dough recipe, which brings us to this gem du jour.

Chopping Chocolate l Scarletta Bakes

Let me tell you a bit about my thinking behind these cookies:

1.  I personally prefer soft chocolate chip cookies (if you’re in the crispy or chewy camp this recipe is probably not for you), which means that you’re going to need to cream the puppies and rainbows out of your sugars and softened butter. You’re also going to want to make sure not to overbake these cookies.

2.  I like sweet cookies. Obviously. But I don’t like sickly sweet cookies that taste like biting into a sugar cube. For this reason, I used slightly less sugar that I think you’ll find in conventional chocolate chip cookie recipes.

3.  The chocolate…  the truth is that I strongly suspect the chocolate chips as the culprit of the metallic flavor in my store-bought cookie dough. Just like pre-grated cheese, I feel like I can almost taste that extra step of store-boughtness that goes into forming those chips. So I went with Mexican chocolate. Now I know what you’re thinking:  ‘M., Mexican chocolate is processed too, you seeeeelly, seeeeeeeelly goose.’ And you would be correct. But Mexican chocolate tastes both less processed than chocolate chips to me, and also tastes less like super-strong chocolate. It’s just a nice, flavored, sweet mild chocolate. So I went with it.

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Life-Changing Green Onion ‘Fries’

Roasted Cebollita 'Fries' l Scarletta Bakes

A few weeks ago A. and I decided we needed a breath of fresh air. Literally. Figuratively. And a few other -lys that we just don’t need to discuss today.

So we saddled up our sturdy sedan and abandoned the Valley of the Sun for a day trip into Arizona’s mountains:  specifically, we were headed for the Prescott Farmer’s Market.

Prescott Farmer's Market l Scarletta Bakes

At the risk of sounding like a massive science nerd, the vast extremes in Arizona’s climate, topography and ecosystem life never cease to amaze me. When you grow up in and around New England, where it’s possible to drive through multiple states in a few short hours and, visually, not even realize that you’ve made the transition, this new environment feels nothing short of Martian.

I just can’t get past it. And if you’ve ever made the drive from Phoenix up into the northern mountains, you know what I mean.

Climbing from an elevation of approximately 1,100 feet to one of approximately 5,400 feet.
Watching the thermostat drop from 99° to 75°.
Passing armies of saguaro cacti that are slowly subsumed by hoards of pines.

It’s pretty fascinating even if you don’t have a destination that you’re excited about.

But we did! Or at least I did! Because farmer’s markets are kind of my jam. Especially in the fall, when they (ironically) remind me of being back home.

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My Family’s Favorite Green Beans

I’ve been doing a fair amount of nervous-anxious-comfort eating lately. Here’s what that looks like:

Gee, that doughnut sure looks good. And so does that cupcake. Hey! You got your doughnut on my cupcake! And you got your cupcake on my doughnut! Nothing left to do but eat the whole dang mess…

It’s fifty shades of ugly. For sure.

Things came to a head the other night when I sat down next to A. on the couch with my Dignity Droppin’ Dessert du jour and he looked over and actually started laughing. Out loud.

I, of course, responded in the only way possible – with preemptive aggression: “What?!?!”

He, of course, responded in the only way possible – with a life-saving change of subject: “Uh, I just read something funny online. Have you heard this joke about the fiscal cliff?”

Well played, my friend. Well played.

So, you know, it occurred to me that it may be time to start getting some more veggies into my diet. And then I discovered this recipe.

Let’s just say that when you can get a chicken nugget-shoving, cupcake-pounding, queso fundido-funneling girl to look forward to eating fresh green beans, you’re doing something right.

The idea is to char the whole beans in a screaming hot skillet, then toss them with a light and lovely Harissa sauce. It is such a wonderful alternative to the heavy, cream of mushroom soup-laden green beans that we’re all expected to eat this time of year. You might want to considering switching things up at the Thanksgiving table, green bean-wise.

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Best Baked French Fries

Perfect French fries really are a science, wouldn’t you say? And maybe also an art – the art and science of the perfect French fry. With a side of perfect, spicy ketchup for dipping. This will be our topic du jour:  we’d better get started.

Now, of course, I’ve read all the rags and I know what’s what:  the truly perfect way to make French fries is to double fry them. You par cook them in oil at a lower temp then jack up the heat and get those fries sinfully crisp on the outside and wonderfully soft on the inside. It’s so wrong its right, and I enjoy being wrong/right every time I go to my favorite local fry spot.

But I’m lazy. And I’m not into eating deep fried foods all the time. And I still need to have some crispy taters, dang it! So I worked out a recipe that would get me where I needed to go without all the drama.

Perfect Baked French Frytown, here we come.

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Chocolate Chunk Coffee Cake Bars

The Olympics are here! The Olympics are here!

Will you be watching? Will you be cheering? Will you be reenacting your favorite medal moments?

Reliving the winning moves from my events of choice is a critical part of my personal Olympic viewing. Most years these performances are safe (excepting only an unfortunate reenactment of a winning luge run in ’88, which involved my teeth luging into the family coffee table) and all years they are thoroughly enjoyed by my audience.

After all these years I still thoroughly enjoy watching both the summer and winter games. The extreme pageantry and commercialism does turn me off, but the sheer athletic accomplishment is hard for me to tear my eyes away from – it’s pretty exciting.

Specifically, I’m a fan of swimming, diving, tennis (table) and, of course, gymnastics. Archery, rowing, and fencing are pretty fun too. Really, it’s hard to pick a favorite so I’ll likely be glued to the TV watching all manner of Olympic feats for the next few weeks. A. will likely restrict my reenactments to events that involve the least potential for personal harm, though. Given my lack of coordination, I’m thinking that judo and taekwondo are out.

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Monterey-Style Corn

I may have mentioned that I like to assign themes to my weekends, even when it’s just A. and me.

Themes set the tone. Themes provide direction. Themes get people excited about what’s to come. And everyone can get involved in a theme!

Tell me you’re not going to put your nose to the grindstone to figure out a menu that goes with a ‘Things That Start With ‘F” theme. Or work up a sweat thinking of entertainment options for a ‘Colors Of The Rainbow’-themed weekend? (Green Lantern! Blue Lagoon! Black Swan! Pretty In Pink! [Obvi.])

Themes are just natural party starters.

So color me the giddy planner now that I’ve settled on this coming weekend’s plan:  Fresh Stuff.

That’s right – She’s Fresh from Kool & The Gang will be in heavy rotation, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reruns will be all over our TV, and we’ll be eating and drinking all manner of fresh food and beverages for 48 straight hours. I plan to hit up the farmer’s market on Friday and keep the freshness flowing all weekend long in the form of local peaches, some early season Hatch chiles, and tons and TONS of fresh, fresh, fresh corn. I’m going to shuck it myself with these shucking hands. Fresh!

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Junk Drawer Ice Cream

I can never remember not having a junk drawer in my life – double negative aside, it’s true. We moved around a few times when I was young, but there was always a junk drawer on the premises. And now that I operate my own premises, I insist on curating my very own junk drawer.

The thing about junk drawers is that they are commonly known to contain, well, junk (duh). But I learned early on that they’re actually a veritable gold mine of available castoffs just waiting for one to claim as their own.

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Frosted Dulce De Leche Fun Cake

I was never a big fan of summer as a child, which I attribute my fear of the ocean, Frisbees, and potato salad. Luckily my lack of fear of ice cream, pie, and running through the sprinkler helped me to make peace with the fair third season, and now we’re living happily ever after.

It’s a good thing too since I now live just down the street from the surface of the sun.

But summer is about so much more than just the temperature outside, don’t you think?

I can still smell my father’s old charcoal grill heating up. Taste my grandmother’s fresh raspberry jam. Feel myself freaking out over the faint chimes that could only mean the approach of the ice cream truck.

Summer is bonkers.

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Jalapeño Pesto, Insta’d

Not a lot to say today. But a lot to show.

The Jalapeño Pesto Show!

As seen through the lens of Instagram.

You may have guessed that I’m obsessed with jalapeños.

But you may not have known that I am also a huge fan of pesto. And Instagram too.

So this post is pretty much a trifecta for me. It’s nice to be surrounded with stuff you like.

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