Fudgy Chocolate Toffee Walnut Cookies

Of the few activities I enjoy more than baking, one is sharing my kitchen creations with family and friends. So it should be no surprise that The Takedowns, whether they be cookie-, ice cream-, chili-, or otherwise themed, are amongst my most looked-forward-to events of the year. And what an extra special one this was. Not only did I get to spend time with loved ones, sample dozens of other home chef extraordinaires’ cookies, and share my chocolate toffee walnut cookies with all the attendees, I also won first place!

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These winning cookies are deeply chocolate, slightly smokey (from the walnuts–make sure you toast them!), and feature toffee bar bits and sea salt flakes. They are also that rare breed of cookie that taste better after they’ve had a few days to let the flavors meld together. So get to it, and make them soon for your holiday festivities. They’re sure to be a crowd pleaser.

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Chocolate Toffee Walnut Cookies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 30-40 cookies

5 tablespoons butter

12 ounces Ghirardelli’s 60% cocoa baking bars

4 ounces Ghirardelli’s 70% cocoa baking bar

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

5 1.4 ounce Heath bars, chopped to about chocolate chip size

1 cup walnuts, chopped, and toasted (the toasting is critical!)

Maldon sea salt flakes, for topping

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Fill a small pot with about an inch of water and bring to a simmer. Place butter and cocoa bars in a small or medium bowl and place on top of pot. Stir occasionally, until butter and cocoa are melted together. Let cool slightly (but not completely) while you work on the following steps, continuing to stir every few minutes to make sure it is not solidifying.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

Beat the sugar and eggs in a stand mixer on medium high speed for about 6 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Add the vanilla extract and melted chocolate, and mix on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Use a rubber spatula to fold the flour mix into the batter. Make sure it is evenly distributed. Add the Heath bits and walnuts (make sure they are well toasted!) and fold until well distributed within the batter.

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Cover top of batter with plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to harden (or else it will be too difficult to shape into cookies).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using either a teaspoon and your hands or a cookie scooper, shape the dough into slightly smaller than ping pong ball sized mounds. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt flakes. Baked for 8-12 minutes, until tops looks just slightly dried and cracked, but much of the cookies still looks raw. Allow to cool completely.

Unlike most baked goods, these taste best once they have completely cooled, and once they have rested for a day or two–somehow all the complex flavors come together while the cookie retains a deep fudgy-ness. Just make sure to store these in an airtight container (at room temperature).

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Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown 2015: Red Velvet Cheesecake Ice Cream

There are few things in this world greater than a weekend of friends, park time, ice cream, and sweet victory! And there are many things harder than writing a blog post with no current urge to write. But knowing I have no good reason for my writer’s block doesn’t make it any less insurmountable. Perhaps it is this stifling humidity?

In any case, I am thrilled to say that my red velvet cheesecake ice cream was awarded third place in this past weekend’s Brooklyn Ice Cream Takedown. And even more thrilled that I got to spend some quality time with my ice cream scooping and transporting BFFs.

Scoopers

But enough about me, let’s talk ice cream. This ice cream is super tangy (from all the sour cream) and refreshing (from the lemon zest), warm (not in a temperature way but in a spice way, from the cinnamon), and rich (from all the cake chunks). There’s really not much else to say than that it comes together like a breeze and you should be making it right now.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Scoop

Red Velvet Cheesecake Ice Cream

Makes about 2 pints

1 slice of red velvet cake

2/3 cup sugar

1 pinch of salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup half and half

1 cup sour cream

8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into small chunks
Ice Cream Masters

Prepare the red velvet cake by removing the frosting. Cut cake into small cubes, place in a freezer bag, and allow to freeze for one day.

Place all ingredients other than red velvet chunks in a food processor and blend well, until all ingredients are incorporated.

Process the ice cream batter per your ice cream maker’s instructions. When moving the ice cream from the ice cream maker into its freezer container, use a rubber spatula to create a one inch high layer, stud with the frozen red velvet cake chunks, and then repeat, so that all of the red velvet chunks have been placed in the ice cream. Serve on its own–it has all it needs in one delightful package!

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