Sunday, January 20, 2019

Rainbow Chip Cake

I decided to make the rainbow chip cake from Date Night In, by Ashley Rodriguez, for no other reason than because it was the last recipe I had bookmarked in it and hadn’t tried yet. One version of the recipe is also on her blog. There are a lot of steps, mostly because you have to make your own “chips” with white chocolate and food coloring (this can be done ahead of time, though). I LOVED the resulting cake, but found the accompanying cream cheese frosting to be a nightmare to work with, as it was way too soft, even after being refrigerated.

So I made the cake a second time, using two containers of Miss Jones frosting in confetti pop flavor. And since I had sprinkles built in with the frosting, I figured it wasn’t worth making the chips and I would just put sprinkles both in and on the cake. It turns out I would have needed three Miss Jones containers to frost the whole thing, and the sprinkles fell off the top of the cake once I cut pieces, so it wasn’t very practical. And I must admit that the rainbow chips tasted much better than the sprinkles!

So I’ve decided that the proper way to do this would be to make the cake with chips as instructed, but to use a vanilla buttercream frosting instead of the original cream cheese one. You could use a recipe like this one (with either lactose-free butter or vegan margarine sticks instead of regular butter), or use three containers of commercial vanilla buttercream, assuming you don’t want a naked cake like I did here the second time (in which case two will do). As for the chips, you can either mix them into the frosting or use them to top the cake – the first option is more original, but I find the second option prettier and easier to work with. Note that Ashley Rodriguez puts strawberry jam between the two layers of cake in addition to frosting, but I omitted it in the second version and in the recipe below.

Also, you’ll see in some photos that I used my baking strips and heating cores for this cake. I do think they make a difference, because the cakes seemed flatter and perhaps more even than usual, but I confess I find the heating cores a bit cumbersome… Maybe I should try one or the other for a while and see what happens. On to the recipe!

For the rainbow chips
1 11-oz. bag white chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. neutral vegetable oil
food coloring – red, yellow, blue, and green (I used gel food coloring)

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate with the oil in 20 second intervals. Stir well after each 20-second burst. Continue to heat until all the chips are melted (but be careful, as chocolate burns easily – you could do this in a double boiler instead if you wish).

Divide the melted white chocolate into four small bowls. Add 5-7 drops of color into each bowl. Stir to combine. The white chocolate will seize up a bit but should still be pliable. If not, pop back into the microwave for about 10 seconds.

On a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, empty out each bowl of colored chocolate. Using your hands or an off-set spatula, form it into a rough rectangle about ¼″ thick.

Place in the freezer for about 10 minutes or until set. Once set, chop up each color into little pieces.

For the rainbow chip cake
1 cup lactose-free milk, room temperature, divided
2 tsp. vanilla
5 egg whites
¼ cup cornstarch
2 ¾ cups (370 g.) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 ¾ cup sugar
1 ½ sticks (6 oz. or ¾ cup) lactose-free butter or margarine, room temperature
½ cup (70 g.) rainbow chips (from recipe above)

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease two 8″ cake pans, line the bottom with parchment paper, then grease again.

In a small bowl, whisk to combine ¼ cup of the milk with the vanilla and egg whites.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar and mix on low speed for 60 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining ¾ cup milk. Mix on low until combined and then increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute.

With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again just to combine. With the mixer on low, add one third of the egg white mixture and mix until incorporated. Add half of the remaining egg white mixture, beat well, and then add the remaining egg white mixture, beating until everything is combined.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and finish mixing on low. Fold in the rainbow chips.

Divide the batter into the cake pans (you should have about 6 ounces or 620 grams of batter per pan). Bake until the cake springs back when gently pressed, 35-40 minutes.

Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before you remove them from the pans. Cool completely before frosting.

For the rainbow chip frosting
vanilla buttercream frosting (see note above)
¾ cups (105 g.) rainbow chips (or more)

Fold the rainbow chips in the frosting or save them to decorate, as you wish (though I’d make sure to put some between the two layers of cake). Frost the cake and top with additional rainbow chips.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Banana, Squash, and Carrot Muffins

These muffins were originally called Toddler Muffins, but I find this more descriptive, because “toddler muffins” sounds to me like one of those recipes that you make with leftover baby cereal, and I never liked those. This calls for a jar of baby food, squash purée to be more specific: you could buy a jar and not have any leftovers, or you could water down a bit of homemade squash purée, or go with something similar like sweet potato or pumpkin (same goes for the grated carrot, which you could substitute with either of those, grated as well). For the spices, I used ¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. I also rewrote the recipe a bit to start with the dry ingredients.

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oat bran
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (see note above)
½ tsp. salt
½ cup lactose-free butter or margarine, softened
½ cup brown sugar
2 large bananas, mashed
1 (4.5-oz.) jar of squash purée for babies
2 carrots, grated
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Grease 12 standard muffin cups.

Whisk together the flour, oat bran, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Mix in the mashed bananas, squash, carrots, and eggs. Stir in the dry ingredients. Spoon the batter equally into the prepared muffin cups.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack. Store at room temperature for up to two days, or freeze.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Lofthouse-Style Pumpkin Cookies

I didn’t post any new pumpkin recipes in the fall because, well, there was only one worth posting about, and I was waiting until I had written up my post about Miss Jones. Now that it’s done, let me catch you up on pumpkin! I tried pumpkin and white chocolate blondies as well as a whole wheat pumpkin bread that were just okay. I enjoyed baked pumpkin and sour cream puddings, but I think that I was the only one who enjoyed them. (Same for these squash and orange flans, which fall in the same category for me.) And then there were Lofthouse-style pumpkin cookies.

Lofthouse cookies are soft and frosted – not what I typically eat, but certainly hard to turn down, so Lofthouse-style pumpkin cookies spoke to me. It’s super easy, too, because I actually used the yellow cake mix called for instead of making my own. And since I didn’t want a cream cheese frosting, I used a can of vanilla frosting from Miss Jones, and it was spot-on! Exactly what I wanted to eat.

Note that I always make my own pumpkin pie spice mix with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice. I didn’t have sprinkles, so I omitted them. Also, since you only need a very small amount of pumpkin purée for these cookies, so you can make something like the above-mentioned pumpkin puddings with the rest, or even a pumpkin loaf (this one or that one) and pretend you’ve got the full measure. This recipe yielded 26 delicious cookies for me.

1 box yellow cake mix (about 15.25 oz.)
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice, plus more for sprinkling
2 Tbsp. pumpkin purée
1/3 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 jar of Miss Jones vanilla frosting (or equivalent)

Place the cake mix and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl and whisk to combine and break up any lumps. Add the pumpkin purée, oil, and eggs, and mix with a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer on medium speed until the dry ingredients are just incorporated without overmixing. The dough will be sticky, but firm. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour.

Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 350 °F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Using a spoon or cookie scoop, measure out 1 ½ tablespoons of dough. Roll into a ball in the palm of your hands and place on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets between racks and from front to back. Bake until the cookies are light golden-brown on the bottom, 4 to 5 minutes more. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 2 to 3 minutes, then use a flat spatula to transfer to them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Generously spread the frosting onto the cooled cookies. Sprinkle with extra pumpkin pie spice or sprinkles to decorate.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Miss Jones

I tried a bunch of Miss Jones Baking Co. products, after hearing about them on my favorite podcast. There was a sale on “cakes in a cup” (microwavable cake mix in individual serving sizes), and I bought a frosting flight box because why not.

I don’t typically like microwaved cake, but it turns out this one is an exception. They manage to have a pleasant, almost fluffy texture that other microwave cakes seem to lack. Plus, they’re not overly sweet, and you won’t feel too guilty eating a single serving. I tried the warm double chocolate chip and the confetti pop and would recommend both.

Now, just to get this out of the way, I also tried the microwavable chocolate chip cookie in a cup, but it was weird and unpleasant and I’m never buying that one again. But it certainly seems to be an exception as far as their offerings go, based on what I’ve tasted.

As for the frostings, I’m so happy I discovered that brand! All the frostings are vegan, therefore suitable for those of us with lactose-intolerance (ingredients are also organic and gluten-free, if you care). For example, the vanilla buttercream contains powdered sugar, sustainably-sourced palm oil, coconut oil, tapioca, sea salt and natural vanilla flavor – there is no warning about any of the major allergens on the packaging. Plus, it’s delicious! You may need to warm it up in the microwave for 5-10 seconds to get the right consistency, but once you know that, it’s a cinch.

The cream cheese flavor tasted more like lemon to me, not actually like cream cheese, but I liked it. I used it on a dozen of these raspberry rosewater cupcakes (half of which I made without raspberries) – they were very good, even though the crumb had some structural integrity issues. And they paired well with a lemon frosting, so it was perfect.

The salted caramel wasn’t my favorite, the chocolate was good, and the vanilla was great (I went out and bought more, actually). The confetti pop flavor is vanilla with a separate container of rainbow sprinkles, and by the looks of it, they are “natural” as the dyes aren’t the bright, vivid ones in typical sprinkles.

I’ve seen Miss Jones products both in my regular HEB and in Whole Foods, so I’m assuming they shouldn’t be too hard to find if you don’t want to order online (though shipping was reasonable, since the products are shelf-stable). I think I’m going to treat myself to some Miss Jones once in a while! I’ll also post a few recipes where I used the frostings.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Tarte choco-caramel en croûte de chips

J’ai souvent essayé des recettes avec du chocolat et du caramel, et il a fallu que je me rende à l’évidence : je ne fais du bon caramel que si j’ai de la crème et du beurre sans lactose, donc au Québec. Mes substituts végétaliens ne font pas du caramel assez bon à mon goût. Et c’est en faisant cette tarte au chocolat et au caramel salé que j’ai dû l’admettre, effaçant du même coup de mes signets les liens vers cette tarte-ci et ces tartelettes-là, que je n’essaierai pas. Parce que non seulement le caramel n’était pas à mon goût, mais ces desserts sont souvent trop sucrés pour moi. Comme ces brownies triple chocolat et caramel salés, qui n’en valaient vraiment pas la peine non plus, en fin de compte (tsé, quand t’es rendue à jeter des restants de brownies à la poubelle…).

J’ai décidé de donner une dernière chance au concept en achetant une sauce au caramel végétalienne, en l’occurrence celle de la marque Hey Boo, que j’ai beaucoup aimée! Je l’ai utilisée (en partie) pour faire cette tarte choco-caramel en croûte de chips, qui avait un délicieux mélange de sucré-salé… En fin de compte, c’était gagnant! Le seul défaut, c’est que la croûte s’effrite beaucoup et amolli au fil du temps – c’est une excellente idée, la croûte de chips, mais celle-ci est mal exécutée. Je pense qu’une croûte sablée serait un bon substitut, mais je vous donne la recette d’origine au cas où quelqu’un voudrait s’essayer. Par contre, la garniture chocolat-caramel est géniale, enfin!

Pour la croûte
1 paquet de 220 g. de croustilles nature Miss Vickie’s (j’ai pris des chips de type kettle-cooked)
¼ tasse de margarine ou de beurre sans lactose fondu(e)
¼ tasse de farine
¼ tasse de sucre

Pour la ganache
2 tasses de pépites de chocolat noir 50 % (j’ai utilisé 10 oz. de pépites Guittard)
1 tasse de lait de coco (ou de crème sans lactose)
dulce de leche ou caramel sans lactose

Préchauffer le four à 350 °F.

Au robot culinaire, mélanger les croustilles, le beurre, la farine et le sucre jusqu’à l’obtention d’une texture granuleuse (attention de ne pas réduire les croustilles en poudre). Étendre le mélange dans le fond d’un moule à tarte de 20 cm (8 po) de diamètre, en prenant soin de bien presser la croûte dans le fond et sur le côté du moule (j’ai utilisé un moule à tarte de 9 po à fond amovible). Cuire au four de 10 à 15 minutes. Laisser refroidir.

Mettre le chocolat dans un bol résistant à la chaleur. Réserver.

Dans une casserole, porter la crème à ébullition. Verser la crème chaude sur le chocolat et laisser reposer 5 minutes. Mélanger jusqu’à l’obtention d’une texture lisse.

Verser la ganache dans la croûte refroidie. Verser le dulce de leche par cuillerées sur la ganache. Passer la pointe d’un couteau sur le dulce de leche, mais sans toucher la croûte, de manière à créer un effet marbré. Réfrigérer au moins 2 heures avant de servir.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Ginger Spice Cookies

It occurred to me that I haven’t shared my recipe for ginger spice cookies, and they’re perfect for the holidays, so here you go! I’ve had this recipes for years (like seriously, close to 20 years) and I have no idea where it’s from, so I can’t link to it (a cursory Google search reveals similar recipes, but not the exact same one). You will love this cookie if you’ve always wanted a ginger snap, but soft and chewy. Prepare for gingery heat!

I’d consider rolling them in coarse sugar before baking them, though I’ve never tried it. This recipe yielded 32 cookies last time I made it.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
¼ cup molasses
½ cup candied ginger, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 °F and place the rack in the middle position.

In a medium bowl, with a whisk, mix the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, and salt.

In a big bowl, with an electric beater (or stand mixer), beat the sugar and oil until well combined. Add the egg, mixing well, then add the molasses. Once combined, add the flour mixture, then the candied ginger and mix until evenly combined.

Make balls of dough about 1 inch in diameter. Place them on ungreased baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies about 8 minutes, until they look ready. (They should look solid, though still a bit shiny on top.)


- I finished my online course titled Indigenous Canada, and then followed that up with The KonMari Method when it was on sale – maybe someday I’ll make it to one of the seminars and work my way up to being a consultant (more on that below).

- I finally started working again. As some of you might know, I am (was?) a translator by trade, until we moved to the States and I had to stop working because I didn’t have the right visa for it, and then I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. Now a friend hooked me up with a small translation project, which involves translating about two dozen recipes (among other texts), and it makes me really happy not just to work again, but to marry translation and recipes, both of which are “my thing”.

- I kept at my decluttering project – getting rid of 365 items in one year. I only got rid of 5 items over the summer (since I wasn’t home and all), but I’ve made a lot more progress since, mainly in my closet. That being said, a surprising amount of things had to be replaced this year: suitcase, backpack, toiletry bag, electric toothbrush, umbrella, towels, light fixtures, prescription eyeglasses… Obviously none of those objects made it into my tally, since they followed the one-in-one-out rule, but it still felt like a lot of purging.

I got rid of my toaster oven, which was a BFD because there was a time in my life when it was indispensable. But all of a sudden, I had enough clarity to see that I hadn’t used it in years, and most probably wouldn’t need it again, and so I was able to let it go. It freed up a fair amount of space in the pantry, but all of that space was taken over by “lunchables” (not the brand, but containers and snacks and such that I now use for the Little Prince every school day). So even though it was a win, it still felt a bit like I’m barely keeping my head above water in that area, because the pantry is still fuller than I’d like. I think I’ll have to further whittle down the number of staples I keep on hand even though, again, I’m not counting food as items for the purposes of this project.

I also closed a Canadian bank account that I wasn’t using. The account itself is intangible, but it allowed me to get rid of a stack of papers as well as a card from my wallet, in addition to eliminating all my dealings with that bank, and I feel like it frees up so much mental space that I’m counting it as one item.

I decided on counting sets of baby items as single items (example: set of two dozen cloth diapers and doublers = 1 item), and I’m counting papers as items only if I also get rid of the folder in which they were stored (so when I got rid of all the papers in one folder, but decided to keep the folder itself for now because it will be useful to store my genealogy papers, I didn’t count any objects in the tally). As of the moment I’m writing these lines, I have gotten rid of 381 items (breakdown: 60 CDs/cassette tapes; 29 books; 1 movie; 55 baby items; 125 items of clothing, many of which were maternity wear or things that no longer fit post-pregnancy; and 111 miscellaneous items – komono, to use KonMari terminology).

You know what, though? It doesn’t make as big of a difference as I was hoping. Apart from the music collection, most things appear the same at a glance. Well, I did improve the entrance by buying a shoe rack and limiting each member of the household to 3 pairs of shoes at the front door, but if anything, that added an item (although it’s definitely both more functional and aesthetically pleasing). I think that most other items were out of sight. Like, sure, my closet and dresser drawers are less crowded, and my bras in particular are now beautifully displayed, but it’s still not a capsule wardrobe. And yes, we got rid of A LOT of baby items, but those were mostly in the nursery closet, behind a closed door, so I know they’re gone, but it doesn’t show. I got rid of dozens of books, and now at least every book has space to be stored vertically, but all three bookshelves are still needed (and I don’t want to change that). And I didn’t get around to editing our movie collection, mostly because I know the same thing would happen again – it’s like I need an end goal. When I was paring down the music collection, it was so that we would get rid of a piece of furniture and put everything that remained in a single storage unit. But that’s not an option for our movies, and an end goal of sparser shelves doesn’t appeal much to me. So everything in the house is just a little bit better, but there were no major makeovers.

- All of this has put me on a path I hadn’t quite expected: I’m getting so much joy from downsizing (when possible) and especially organizing (all the time) that I’ve decided to be a professional organizer – you heard it here first. I’m in a preparation phase right now; I’ll be dealing with classes, accreditation, banking, insurance, accounting, branding, etc., in the spring, but it all seems very doable for me. And if I make it to one of Marie Kondo’s seminars (tough because of limited availabilities and the fact that I am needed at home), I could work my way to being a KonMari consultant, for which there is a lot of demand.

I took a third online course, about minimalism, not for motivation so much as for “market research”. This was very helpful because it became obvious that there are situations that many, many people are faced with that just don’t happen in my house. Like, I was aware of jokes or memes about these things, but I honestly didn’t realize that so many people really experienced these things (as evidenced by photos and posts in a private Facebook group). Example: tons of clutter kept in the car; piles of mail that goes unopened (including bills and claims and checks, all of which expire); cupboards crammed with Tupperware lids with no matching containers; baskets full of single socks. Honestly, I think I have lost a sock once in my life, when I was doing a load of laundry to prepare for the Little Prince’s arrival – the Engineer found the sock three years later, and it turns out it had fallen between the washing machine and the wall, in the back. The Fox got to wear the pair instead. Seriously, how do you truly lose socks (assuming they’re not stuck flat against the tub of the washer/dryer or inside a pant leg or still in the hamper)? I guess I’ll have to figure out a reasonable amount of time for my clients to keep said basket of single socks…

I remember reading Joel Stein’s Time article (Stuff and Nonsense, August 6, 2012) about Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, a UCLA project led by Jeanne Arnold, who studied the homes of 32 middle-class families from Southern California. Arnold says that the best predictor of clutter within the house is the fridge – she’s only seen two that had nothing on them, and that’s because they were not magnetized. The average family has 52 items on their fridge. (I had to go check ours: we only have things on one side, as the front is stainless steel; we have 22 things if you count both magnets and paper held by magnets, plus a growing, soon-to-be-12 magnet mosaic from a subscription the Little Prince has. Still more than I had thought.) She also says that 78% of families have a television in their bedroom (we don’t); 53% of families have a second fridge (well, we have a miniature fridge in the garage, which we’ve used to store beverages when we had guests, but it’s not currently plugged in); 75% use their garage solely for storage (guilty, though in our defense, our two-car garage has two separate doors, which means that parking a car there will prevent you from opening the door on one side because it’s so close to the wall – inconvenient for one driver, but impossible for a family with two kids in car seats; factor in the giant trash and recycling bins that we store in there, plus a lawn mower, some outdoor furniture, our rooftop carrier for the summer road trips, gardening items, a newly-acquired hand-me-down wagon, a tricycle and a kid’s bicycle, and yeah, there’s really only room for one car if we need to bring it indoors to avoid freezing rain, for example). Other interesting numbers, though I’m not comparing just now: the average family has 438 books and magazines, 212 CDs, 90 DVDs and VHS tapes, 139 toys, 39 pairs of shoes, and a backyard with a grill, although 75% of families don’t actually carve out any time to spend outdoors (guilty of that too).

If you want to find out more about that project, there’s a great video here. It also explains how clutter is affecting (and burdening) women in particular.

- I’m also going to open an Etsy store, but I’ll tell you more about that once it’s set up.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Another big showdown of chocolate chip cookies

Alright, alright, I might as well give in and own it: chocolate chip cookies are my thing. Even when I have killer recipes, I can’t help but try others. And I’m not even going to apologize, because otherwise I would never have found the 36-hour cookies, even though I was (and still am) enamored with the Neiman-Marcus cookies.

So, I tried Alison Roman’s famous salted butter and chocolate chunk shortbread cookies, back when I still had lactose-free butter, and I have to say I did not care for them. Only one was nice enough to be photographed; they would have fared better without the egg wash, but still, I’m not making them again.

I took a look at what I call pan-bang cookies, which were all over the internet last fall. They looked good, but let’s face the facts: their entire draw is the fact that they end up being very flat (and have ripples), but a flat chocolate chip cookie is not what I want – I like them thick and chewy. So I’m not going to be pan-banging, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. There are still “chef recipes” I want to try, like the three on the BuzzFeed round-up, but I didn’t get around to it, and I probably need more taste tester for those.

I tried four more recipes for this round-up: the ones from Everyday Reading, which call for both butter and shortening; the ones from Tara O’Brady’s Seven Spoons, which call for melted butter; the Cook’s Illustrated version, which called for browned butter; and Broma Bakery’s cookies, which call for olive oil. Note that for all of these, I used Earth Balance sticks instead of butter, since I can’t get it lactose-free in the States anymore, but I used Challenge’s lactose-free butter spread for the Cook’s Illustrated cookies because I did have to get some sort of browning going on in there. All cookies were topped those with Maldon sea salt, in the spirit of fairness, because cookies are better with salt.

I baked some of each as I made them over the past few months, of course, but I also saved some dough in the freezer for comparison purposes for today, alongside some 36-hour cookie dough made last week (gotta have something for teachers and coaches before the holidays) and some Neiman-Marcus for good measure (I had some in the freezer and they wanted to join the party).

First up, Everyday Reading cookies. They are ideal baked 10 minutes when the dough is straight from the fridge. They are delicious, crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, but they are best served immediately – they don’t keep all that well, even if the raw dough is left in the fridge and baked on demand. I got 25 cookies from that batch.

Tara O’Brady’s cookies were easier to shape after chilling the dough; I got 32 from that batch. They also baked up in 10 minutes if they were straight from the fridge, and were actually better the next day once the dough had rested. I didn’t really have anything remarkable to say at that point, though.

The Cook’s Illustrated cookies yielded an even 24 cookies, which I measured as accurately as I could (1.25 ounces each) given that I did not own a #24 cookie scoop. They were easier to shape at room temperature, though I baked most of them cold – 12 minutes is ideal if the dough has been kept in the fridge.

Broma Bakery’s cookies yielded 18 cookies; the dough was *very* soft, so they were easier to shape once it had been chilled. They baked in 13 to 14 minutes from the fridge, but they spread in the oven and turned stiff once cooled. They were certainly not great.

Then there was today’s bake-off, where I pitted them all against one another, starting with frozen dough for every one and baking everything at 350 °F for 14 minutes, because there are limits to how finicky I will get in accommodating particular recipe variations for a total of six cookies. (And for the record, I had a nice healthy salad for lunch, and *tasted* all six cookies but did not *finish* all of them.) In each photo, they are, clockwise from top left: Everyday Reading, Tara O’Brady, Cook’s Illustrated, Neiman-Marcus, 36-hour, and Broma Bakery.

The olive oil one was eliminated immediately for its unpleasant texture (more tacky than chewy). Tara O’Brady’s cookies soon followed, for the same reason. I like Cook’s Illustrated’s cookies, but find then a bit bland, or like they are missing something, especially compared to the rest. And the cookies with shortening are taller and a bit crisper than the others, but they also taste like something is missing. Meanwhile, the Neiman-Marcus cookies are delicious, but a different beast altogether. I kept coming back to the 36-hour cookies as a “control cookie” to use when tasting, and in the end, I did prefer them as far as no-frills chocolate chip cookies go.

Conclusion: The 36-hour cookie wins again! Also, I have now purchased a #24 cookie scoop, because I’m taking this cookie-making thing a bit more seriously.