chocolate espresso cookies

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Merrrrry December, my little ones! As I type, there is a Christmas tree…thistle? needle? branch?…I think it’s needle…stuck in my number 8 key. So, please pardon any funky symbols. It’s not secret code or anything.

espresso10espresso11My Christmas season thus far hasn’t been too whirlwindy. The past few weekends have entertained a couple of parades, my city’s tree lighting, and the Lights at the Zoo, which is basically that: our sweet zoo covers the place with lights and it’s sort of a South Carolina tradition to spend an evening there during Christmastime. It’s pretty magical, BUT…I am rather partial/biased. I haven’t found too many nights to sleep under the tree yet, mostly because our tree branches this year are practically touching the ground. I think our trembling-causing Christmas excitement forced our bodies to skip the tree-trimming itself and skip right to fun part of popping on those ornaments. But it’s cool. I’ve still found lots of time for music and cleaning (…weird? Prepping the house reminds me of Christmas) and baking.

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Last week, my kitchen was devoted to testing, baking, and sampling cookies for The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It’s basically like a cookie swap party (bake cookies, go to party with cookies, swap cookies with other attendees who baked cookies, come home with an assortment of cookies), except it’s worldwide. Each blogger baked a dozen cookies for three other bloggers and, in return, received three different types of cookies for themselves (I received cookies from Beth’s Blue Plate Special, The Cultural Dish, and Princesss Pea. Thanks, y’all!). The whole event is a great connection tool. Plus, 100% of our sign-up costs went directly to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, an organization that supports research of new and improved therapies for pediatric cancer. So, yeah. Basically, this swap is the bomb. I decided to do a chocolate cookie with a vibrant, yet deep, espresso glaze. Why? I like chocolate. Husband likes coffee. BAM. Winning combo.

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chocolate espresso cookies
yield: 3 dozen cookies

cookies
ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar (made with natural cane sugar), packed
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup brewed espresso
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 cup dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

glaze
ingredients
1/2 cup unrefined powdered sugar
2 tbsp (or so) brewed espresso

create
Preheat oven to 375º. Using a mixer, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt together until well combined. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in 1/4 cup brewed espresso until well combined.
Stir the flour, baking soda, and cocoa powders together and gradually add it to the butter mixture. Beat until well combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks.
On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop tablespoonfuls of batter a couple of inches apart and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the middle is set. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack.
While the cookies are baking, make the glaze. In a bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and brewed espresso together until smooth. The glaze should thin enough to pipe over the cookies, but not watery. Use more or less brewed espresso to reach the desired consistency.
Transfer the glaze to a piping bag (or a sandwich bag with a very small amount of one of the tips cup off). When the cookies have cooled, quickly pipe the glaze over the cookies in a zig-zag motion.
Tip: Use a wire rack with foil or parchment underneath it. It will prevent mess, help the glaze dry correctly, and save any glaze dripping from the cookies.
Let the glaze dry/harden and store in an air-tight container.

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The espresso I used to bake and glaze these cookies comes from the super-fly (sorry, my 90s is showing), super-knowledgable owner of Loveland Coffee, a coffee company based here in Columbia which focuses on local roasts, ingredients, and the process. The respect of the ingredients and process is the whole idea behind and the whole reason I started Heed the Feed, so I totally appreciate Loveland Coffee’s stance. That being said, I am nowhere close to being a coffee authority (my husband had to make the cookies’ espresso, for Pete’s sake), so I will just let Loveland Coffee describe the espresso to you :

” Our espresso is a blissful union of base, body and aroma that produces an amazingly long lasting crema when extracted properly as espresso. Used in lattes and cappucinos, it offers a strong, smooth chocolate taste. Roasted light, in the Northern Itailian style, as all fine espressos are… it has no flaws to hide by roasting to a crisp.”

Ehh, ehh (with a little elbow nudge)? Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Heck yeah, it does. Well, here’s your chance to get your hands on some of those carefully-prepared beans. That’s right, Bob, it’s time for Heed the Feed’s very first giveaway! Come on down! (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)

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The Prize: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. One Pound Whole Bean Northern Italian Style Espresso
AND
2. One Pound Whole Bean Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

How to Enter: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. Like Loveland Coffee on Facebook and let me know you’ve Liked it in the comments below this post
and/or
2. Subscribe to Heed the Feed!
(You will receive one entry for each task. For example, if you like Loveland Coffee on Facebook and tell me in the comments below, you will receive one entry. If you subscribe to Heed the Feed, you will receive on entry. If you do both, you will receive two entries.)
That’s it!

A Few Other Things I Should Mention: (GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED)
1. Open to U.S. residents only. Frown. Sorry, international friends.
2. The giveaway will open at 12:00am EST 12/12/12 (cool) and close at 12:00am EST 12/19/12.
3. Winner will be chosen at random and contacted after 12:00am EST on 12/19/12.

Good luck and happy cookie baking!

Loveland Coffee will soon open at a brand new location: 7001 St. Andrews Rd. Columbia, SC 29212. Visit the website at www.lovelandcoffee.com

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mommy’s ranch dressing


I’m writing this post in the passenger seat of a vehicle that’s in a caravan on the way to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains for a celebration of Christmas. That has nothing to do with this post, really. Just wanted to let y’all know.

But aren’t y’all excited about Christmas? Geez. I am. I’m still a child, though. I guess I should finally admit to the world that I still watch cartoons and jump up and down when I’m excited and absolutely adore musicals, sing-a-longs, and anything else that has a singing character in it. The other night my dog slept on my side of the bed while I slept under the Christmas tree because it was too beautiful to leave. Charlie Brown makes me cry. The Grinch warms my heart. And y’all know baby Jesus was the cutest baby ever.

This recipe isn’t really a Christmas recipe by tradition, but you know what people serve at parties? Crudités (I can picture people jumping up from their chairs, “Crew dytes?” It’s really just a fancy French word for raw veggies and dip, pronounced crew-deh-tay). And you know what holiday hosts lots of parties? Christmas. So, there ya go.

I kind of grew up with my mom making this ranch dressing and every time she did I remember being so impressed. I guess when I was seven I thought there were trees that had ranch dressing siphoned out of them like maple trees. Who knows. But this stuff is delicious. She used to make this, like, 16 layer salad with tons of random things in it and it was topped with her ranch dressing. It was the bomb. Mother, if you are reading, make this salad? Hmm?

And, man, y’all know I love making stuff that’s chemical free for our little ol’ bodies.

mommy’s ranch dressing
ingredients
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
~1 cup mayonnaise
~1/2 cup sour cream
pinch of salt
pinch of white pepper
pinch of onion powder
buttermilk, to desired consistency

create
Mince the garlic clove and sprinkle a little salt over the top. Mash the garlic and salt together with a fork until well combined. Put in a bowl with the chopped parsley and chives.
Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, pepper, and a little more salt. Mix together.
Add as much buttermilk as you’d like. If you like your dressing thicker, just add a little. If you like it thin, add a little more. Keep tasting it along the way and adjust the flavors based on what you think it needs. Keep in the fridge in a jar (and remember that spices will get stronger as they sit).

That’s it! You’re done! The thing about this dressing is that everything in it is crazy adjustable to personal taste. Don’t like as much mayo? Psh, add less. Want more garlic? Add it. I almost listed the ingredients as “some of this” or “some of that.” You can even get crazy, people. Add hot sauce, or other spices, or whatever your heart fancies. And then, dadgummit, get some raw veggies and crudité it up!

Update on the trip: we’re currently driving up a mountain near Asheville, my husband’s ears are popping, my brother-in-law and his fiancé are sleeping, and we’re listening to the glorious sounds of a very She & Him Christmas. Really, was there ever a more beautiful place than the mountains? I’m in love with them. Thank you, Jesus, for a beautiful earth.

Merry Christmas, y’all.