Thursday, May 19, 2011

Milk and Cookies from a Master

I first met Tina Casaceli years ago when she was the director of Pastry Studies at the French Culinary Institute in New York. We were judging a pastry competition together, along with a few others, and had to taste over twenty different desserts in a span of a few hour. By the sixth or seventh one, we started to giggle a bit,  


trying hard to maintain our professionalism. By number twenty, however, we were downright punch-drunk. (I defy anyone to taste twenty desserts and remain sober.) Anyhow, from the moment I met her, I really liked her, and we’ve been fast friends ever since. Tina has since moved on to open her own business, an adorable 


cookie shop in Greenwich Village called Milk and Cookies Bakery. Here you can order milk shakes, brownies, sundaes and ice cream sandwiches, or have cookies with customized ingredients baked for you on the spot. Milk and Cookies Bakery is a huge success, mostly because Tina’s an incredibly hard worker and 


knows just how to run a small business (she grew up working in her family’s restaurant). Tina has also just released her first book, aptly named Milk & Cookies (Chronicle Books, 2011; $24.95). Full of comforting cookie and bar recipes from her bakery, it’s an irresistible book that you’re bound to turn to again and again. I was 


hard-pressed to choose a recipe to bake (so many were my favorites) but I was able to narrow it down to two, Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies. With a hint of maple flavor and bursts of sweet blueberry, Tina’s oatmeal cookies were chewy delishness. I loved them. I also liked the peanut butter cookies, but they were very tender and light, and I’m not accustomed to that. I think I like my peanut butter cookies dense and chewy, but you might prefer them this way. At any rate, I know you will love this book and its myriad recipes. You'll also love Tina, if you get the chance to stop by her charming bakery. Milk and Cookies Bakery is located at 19 Commerce St., New York, NY; 212-243-1640.

Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Adapted from Milk and Cookies by Tina Casceli (Chronicle Books, 2011; $24.95)

1 ½ cups (6 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (7 oz) light brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup (3 ½ oz) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups dried blueberries

1. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
2. Put the butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle. Begin beating on low speed. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and increase the speed to medium, and beat for about 4 minutes, or until light and creamy. Add the maple syrup and eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Slowly beat in the flour mixture and oats, then the dried blueberries.
3. Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until firm. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.
4. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Using a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, make mounds of dough. Roll the dough into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Place the balls, about 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Using your palm, gently flatten the top of each cookie slightly. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Adapted from Milk and Cookies by Tina Casaceli (Chronicle Books, 2011)

1 ½ cups (6 oz) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (12 ounces or 24 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (6 ounces) peanut butter chips*
1 cup (6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup (4 ounces) finely chopped roasted, salted peanuts

*Note: my grocery store didn’t have peanut butter chips, so I doubled the amount of chocolate chips instead.

1. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
2. Put the butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle. Begin beating on low speed. Add the brown sugar, increase the speed to medium, and beat for about 4 minutes, or until light and creamy. Add the peanut butter and beat to incorporate; then, beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
3. With the motor running, gradually add the flour mixture, peanut butter and chocolate chips and chopped peanuts, beating just to blend. While the dough is still streaky, remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape the paddle clean.
4. Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until firm. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325°F.
5. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Using a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, make mounds of dough. Roll the dough into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Place the balls, about 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheets. Using your palm, gently flatten the top of each cookie slightly. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. 

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