Ages and ages ago (at least, it feels that way) my husband, Adam, and I spent a few days in Los Angeles. It was a thoughtful Christmas gift from Adam – I could pick any city in the country to spend a long weekend in. Since it was winter in Minnesota, I had a friend in Los Angeles with an Airbnb (see below!), and visiting Joshua Tree National Park was on my lifetime bucket list, we decided to head West. It was a lovely weekend, despite getting burnt to a crisp at the ocean. I also got to spend time with an old friend and her family (the cute littles pictured above) and have coffee with Nicole from Eat This Poem and Alana from Fix Feast Flair.

Some places we ate/visited:

Ramen of York
Grand Central Market
Habitat Coffee Shop
Joshua Tree National Park
Amoeba Music 

Also! If you are looking for a great Airbnb to stay at in Los Angeles, check out this one!
We loved our time here: everything was so clean and comfortable, and it was a great location.

The Airbnb photos directly above were taken by Jessica Isaac.

 

(There will be a much bigger post coming, with tips and tricks, how the cookie evolved,  and a video! However, I’ve had so many emails about this recipe, and it is showing up everywhere else on the internet, I thought I might as well put it on my site so I can answer questions and help troubleshoot here.)

To buy my book (complete with the cookie recipe, as well as many, many more!) click here.

(Pan-Banging) Chocolate Chip Cookies
As seen in the NYTimes and Star Tribune.

Originally I thought to include a different chocolate chip cookie recipe in this book. It was my go-to cookie, one I had made for years at Bordertown Coffee. I began working on a thin and crispy version, and along the way it evolved into this recipe. The cookie falls somewhere in the middle of gooey and crispy, with edges that shatter in your mouth and a center that is soft and full of chocolate. My family loved it so much that my original recipe hasn’t seen the light of day since. Meet our new house cookie. Makes 10 cookies.

2 cups (284 g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ pound (2 sticks; 227 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1½ cups (297 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50 g) packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into bite-size pieces averaging ½ inch with some
smaller and some larger

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 3 baking sheets with aluminum foil, dull side up.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter on medium until creamy. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and water and mix on low to combine. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until combined. Add the chocolate and mix on low into the batter.

Form the dough into 3½-ounce (100g) balls (a heaping 1/3 cup each). Place 4 balls an equal distance apart on a prepared pan and transfer to the freezer for 15 minutes before baking. After you put the first baking sheet in the oven, put the second one in the freezer.

Place the chilled baking sheet in the oven and bake 10 minutes, until the cookies are puffed slightly in the center. Lift the side of the baking sheet up about 4 inches and gently let it drop down against the oven rack, so the edges of the cookies set and the inside falls back down (this will feel wrong, but trust me). After the cookies puff up again in 2 minutes, repeat lifting and dropping the pan. Repeat a few more times to create ridges around the edge of the cookie. Bake 16 to 18 minutes total, until the cookies have spread out and the edges are golden brown but the centers are much lighter and not fully cooked.

Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack; let cool completely before removing the cookies from the pan.

NOTES: These cookies are rather large, but to get the edges to spread out and crinkle, they need to be on the big side. If you want to make the cookies smaller, you won’t get as many ridges on the outer layer, and your center won’t be quite as gooey. They will still be delicious, but not quite what I intended for you.

If you skip freezing the cookies, they will spread too much on the pan and will not form the crinkly outer layer.

Chocolate chips are not a good substitution for the chopped chocolate; the cookies will not turn out the same with chips. If you do still want to use chocolate chips, you will need to use 8 ounces chips and make the cookies 2½ ounces big.

Using the dull side of aluminum foil to bake these cookies is a little trick I learned after hearing Alice Medrich speak. The foil helps make for an extra-crisp, golden brown bottom. Parchment paper can also be used with good results.

The cookies are delicious warm, but I’ve found I love them a couple of days later just as much. I usually store them in the fridge and sneak pieces of them cold.

Reprinted by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Sarah Kieffer, 2016.


(screen shot from my iphone)

I’m still in shock, after seeing this write up in the New York Times about my chocolate chip cookies. I’ve had a lot of questions for the recipe and about the recipe, so I’m popping in to say that I am working on a post or two that will answer questions and help troubleshoot any issues. I’m hoping there will also be a video involved, as I’ve also had  lot of curiosity about the correct way to ‘pan-bang’. In the meantime, if you are here looking for the recipe, you can find it here! I do have several other chocolate chip recipes on my site, but those are not the cookies you are looking for. Thank you again for all the cookie love on Instagram! I do have a giveaway going on over there for a copy of my book – you can find that here.

We entered September with a bang: school for everyone except me, birthday celebrations, anniversary dinner (we ate here, it was incredible), and then we splurged on U2 tickets and saw the Joshua Tree tour (and they did play the Joshua Tree from start to finish and it was amazing) (also the poems they scrolled on giant screens before the show are worth reading) and then saw Maria Bamford the very next night (along with Jackie Kashian who was also hilarious) and then family visiting and then meet-the-teacher night and then scrubbing my house from top to bottom because summer made it embarrassingly dirty. There is still so much packed into the rest of this month I am actually looking forward to October, along with some cool fall breezes and falling leaves, long walks and even longer books.

September started out rather chilly, but this past week we found ourselves in a major heat wave, so naturally I found myself in the kitchen making pies, puff pastry, and Danish dough. I have this odd desire to bake on extremely hot days, which doesn’t make much sense to me, but then again, I have the same desire on icy cold days, so maybe it’s just that I’m obsessed with baking. Whatever the reason, this Danish braid was made, and I’ve declared it my new favorite. The braid itself was inspired by Zoe Francois – she made this beautiful Raspberry braid with Bread in 5’s no-knead dough, and the second I saw it, I knew I had to try one with my Easy Danish Dough. It worked wonderfully, and I have a feeling any guests I have for the next 6 months will be served some variation of this.

I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I use their butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands. This Danish braid was made Land O Lakes® European Style Butter, and it turned out *fantastic*. The layers were perfectly flaky and each bite rang out with pure butter flavor.

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My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp North, without declining West?
Whatever dies was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none do slacken, none can die.
-John Donne, The Good-Morrow

This past week I found volumes A-F of the Norton Anthology of English Literature at my local thrift store, and I gleefully tucked them into my cart and took them home to read. I had a gigantic hardcover anthology that I carried around all through college, but since graduating the books have been updated tremendously (YAY), and I’m happy to find better translations, women authors, and helpful commentary. I’m a sucker for sixteenth century literature; I fell in love with Shakespeare in high school and enjoy reading the poetry from that time period (as you can see in the above poem). However, I’m starting at the Middle Ages and working my way through. It’s always a good sign when you pick up a book before an iphone; I haven’t enjoyed reading this much in quite awhile.

I also received a new cookbook recently – Hello, My Name is Ice Cream, by Dana Cree. This worked out perfectly, because Williams-Sonoma was very kind and sent me a Breville Ice Cream Compressor in August, and I have been making waaaaay too much ice cream with it. (Side note: I LOVE the ice cream compressor. It’s dreamy and quiet and so fun to use.) I decided to make my chocolate chip cookies into ice cream, and the results were, as you can imagine, delicious.

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One must know
how to be quiet in all
the languages
and everywhere,
always
allowing
the leaves to fall,
fall,
allowing them to fall,
fall. *

The house is quiet again. The constant laughter, pitter-patter of feet, splashing of pool water, and occasional bickering has been replaced with the sound of measuring cups scooping out flour, rolling pins on cold stone, and the mixer paddle clunking against stainless steel. For most of my life autumn was a loud month – filled with nervous thoughts and new classrooms, espresso machines hissing and cash registers ringing. Now it is still and silent, like red and yellow leaves slowly making their way onto city streets. I appreciate the time to collect my thoughts and work uninterrupted, but I miss the noise and chaos with my whole aching heart.

But the commotion returns, at 4 pm each afternoon. Two little people burst through the door and throw their backpacks and lunch boxes here and there, telling me stories of what happened in class and what so-and-so said on the bus, and I hardly remember I was ever feeling lonely. It’s a slow adjustment, from autumn to winter, winter to spring, and then on to summer again, but somehow each year we cycle through.

It’s difficult
to
be autumn,
easy to be spring.
To ignite everything
that is born
to be ignited.
But to turn the world off,
sliding it
as if it were a hoop
of yellow things,
until colors are melted
– *from Ode to Autumn, Pablo Neruda

***If you are able to give to help Houston, Wit & Delight has a post highlighting several charities and organizations.***

The copper measuring cups pictured here are from the Martha Stewart Collection, and were sent to me to use. You can find them exclusively at Macy’s.

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We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Little Gidding V,
Four Quartets.
— T.S. Eliot (1943)

Somehow I am turning 40 this week. I’ve gotten over the freaking-out part of things (that happened at 39) and I’ve moved into some ‘next phase of life’ business. I’ve found I like myself better the older I get (although I will give a nod to my therapist here – her help is part of why aging has been going so well!), and almost-forty has given me confidence I didn’t know I possessed. Often when I am afraid to do something, or stand up for myself, a simple reminder that ‘you’re forty years old. You can totally do this,’ has been very helpful. I guess I’m officially an adult or something now.

My husband turns forty right around this time as well, and we also celebrate our 15-year wedding anniversary, so it’s sort of an epic end of summer for us. I try not to remember the signs hanging up at my parents’ ‘over-the-hill’ parties: halfway to heaven isn’t something I want to focus on quite yet. Although I’ll admit there are moments each month, as the year quickly passes yet again, that the unknown, whatever is after all of this, is a more present, lurking thought. Sometimes it’s joyful, and hopeful, other times I quickly shove it away, not ready to deal with my fear. Either way, it’s a reminder to not waste time, to speak up for what is right, and to enjoy all the days I have this side of the hill. Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new. -Ursula K. Le Guin

I made a small birthday cake for myself this year. The chocolate cake is a scaled down version of the chocolate cake from my cookbook, with sour cream instead of buttermilk, and butter added in place of some of the canola oil. I really liked how it turned out. I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I use their unsalted butter in my baking, and find the flavor to be heads and shoulders above other grocery store brands.

The seven minute frosting is a nod to my Grandma Ethel, who used to make a version of  this quite frequently (though she never toasted the top of hers), and as a child I thought it was the worst thing ever – I didn’t understand how anyone could ruin a perfectly good cake with it. My opinion has changed drastically over the years (another positive of aging, I guess), and I thought it would be a good accompaniment to the chocolate cake. I did share some with my family, and they liked it, too.

This post is sponsored by Land O Lakes. As always, all opinions are my own.

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‘Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.’ – Mary Oliver

Each summer, my family took a four day get-away to Wisconsin Dells, (Water Park Capital of the World!) the vacation destination for most middle-class Midwesterners. My siblings and I thought it was the best place on earth, and were terribly disappointed the summer my mom vetoed The Dells and insisted we head North, spending our days instead on and around the North Shore. It’s possible we complained bitterly the whole way there and during our entire trip, driving my parents to the edge of patience and then right off the cliffs of insanity. It’s possible my mom completely lost her temper while we were exploring Gooseberry State Park, after we had  mentioned yet again how water slides were much more exciting than water falls. It’s possible that even though I realized how awful I was being and finally determined to turn my attitude around the last half of our trip, I had never been back since.

My husband is from Wisconsin, but did not spend his summers in The Dells. In fact, his experience was quite the opposite – his family despised going there, instead packing up their car with camping equipment, and spending their time outdoors canoeing, hiking, cooking over campfires, and the like. This summer, after he once again mentioned how we should finally visit Duluth (and me inwardly groaning with only memories of my last trip to go by), the two of us hit the road and headed toward Lake Superior.

After a long drive (and lots of time spent listening to this album and this album and always this album) I rediscovered the North, with it’s rocky shores, pale blue skies, and the ice queen of lakes as a constant backdrop. We spent our days driving, hiking, talking and not talking, breathing deep; delighted at the beautiful landscape we had neglected to enjoy for most our life. I sat near the shore and felt for the first time in a long time that I belonged somewhere, realizing (again) that sometimes parents do know best, and sent my mom a little text. ‘You were always right about this place. Thanks for taking me.’

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. .. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!” – The Last Battle, CS Lewis

***********************************************************
EXPLORING THE NORTH SHORE
(Places we stayed/ate at/explored/loved)

Duluth

Thirsty Pagan Brewing – technically in Superior, but worth the drive. Both the pizza and beer were fantastic. Make sure to order the weekly changing pizza specials. We had some sweet potato pizza business that was insanely good.

Northern Waters Smokehaus – I had the Cedar’s Secret Sandwich. It was probably the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. I highly recommend this little place.

Pier B Resort – Clean rooms, great view, nightly s’mores, and a hot tub over looking Lake Superior.

Little Neechers – Our friends own the only cloth diaper store in Duluth!

Headed North from Duluth to Grand Marais

New Scenic Cafe – Amazing food, and a lovely atmosphere. They also were playing Miles Davis the whole time I was eating, which was A+.

Gooseberry Falls – Hike the Narnia woods to the beautiful waterfalls.

Black Beach – A gorgeous little beach tucked away on Highway 61. I wish we would have brought a picnic lunch.

Tettegouche State Park – Another beautiful place to hike. Make sure to stop at Crystal Bay.

Artist Point – located in Grand Marais. An easy to moderate place to hike, and a gorgeous view of Lake Superior.

Places we didn’t get to but wish we had (next time!)

World’s Best Donuts – the line was 30 people deep so we didn’t wait, but I got yelled at by multiple family members for not stopping.

Betty’s Pies

The Crooked Spoon Cafe – highly recommended by friends.

Fika Coffee

Bluefin Bay Family of Resorts – several friends recommend staying here.

Cove Point Lodge – my parents stay here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.’ – Henry James

I have to agree with Mr. James here; summer is magic. With my littles at home and days filled with swimming, reading, long walks, trips to the library, canoeing, hammocking, lego building, and not homeworking, I am entering August on tiptoes, knowing there are only four weeks of leisure left. ‘Twenty-nine days!’ my seven year old son lamented today as he counted on the calendar. ‘Only twenty-nine days left of summer! I’m doomed!’ I tried to reassure him it was plenty of time, but August does have a reputation for flying by too fast. Or, as my friend Kate put it, ‘August is the Sunday of summer. June is Friday night, July is Saturday, and each day of August quietly whispers, Monday is just around the corner.’

So we made ice cream cake. Because the weather is warm, and we still have days left to celebrate our freedom. Raspberry crème fraîche no-churn ice cream with chocolate cookie crumb and toasted meringue topping, to be exact. It was decadent, and delicious; it cooled us to our toes and made us momentarily ignore that yes, we are doomed.

‘All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.’ – LM Montomery

This post is sponsored by Driscoll’s and the Minnesota #BerryTogether Sweepstakes. Did you know Minnesota is the number one consumer of raspberries? To celebrate, Driscoll’s is giving away a Minnesota exclusive getaway Madden’s Resort & Spa in Brainerd, MN for 4 from now until August 31st. Click here to enter.

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Hello! And apologies for the silence in this space. The quiet is a good thing – my summer has been lovely and busy; my family and I enjoying quality time together. So baking and blogging has been on the back burner for the better (that sentence had too many ‘b’ words and a terrible attempt at a kitchen pun, which means I’ve had way too much coffee today).

I’ll be back again later this week with another recipe and some trip photos from the North Shore, but for now, I am going to leave you with some links.

*There has been so much good music released this spring/summer! I’ve been listening to Feist, Lee Bozeman, Greycoats, and Sufjan’s Planetarium on repeat for weeks.

*I still love Jeremy Enigk.

*I am spending the summer reading Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History series.

*Zoebakes’s Instagram stories are the best- I always learn something new.

*I actually bought a fanny pack (or belt bag, for the trendy) and have gotten mixed reviews on it. I will say it was amazing while hiking, and I did have an older gentleman compliment me on it (we almost had matching bags), which made my day.

*I have mint chocolate ice cream cake and mixed berry cream cheese ice cream on Handmade Charlotte.

*I have grilled breakfast pizza on Artisan Bread in Five.

*Can’t wait to start baking from Pizza Camp. I also have a gigantic stack of cookbooks I need to bake from and share with you, that I hopefully will get to soon.

That’s all for now! I hope you had a lovely weekend. Don’t forget to #bakeamericacakeagain.

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