July 20, 2009

Triple Threat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Over the 4th of July weekend, Peter and I took an overnight trip to Fredericksburg, in the Texas Hill Country.  It was a last-minute decision, but it couldn't have turned out more perfectly.  We managed to find the last hotel room at a Hampton Inn, the weather was beautiful all weekend and The Silver K Cafe in Johnson City was open over the holiday weekend so we could stop in for lunch and a slice of buttermilk pie for dessert.  Our very own traveler's trifecta!  We are in the process of looking to buy an antique pick up truck and Peter's online research led him to an antique car dealer in Fredericksburg, so although there was a primary reason for the trip, it was also the perfect opportunity to get away from the city to get a change of scenery and of course, eat some great food.  

Fredericksburg is home to some fantastic restaurants, cafes and bakeries, and although our visits there have only amounted to a grand total of two, we've managed to make a pretty good dent into Fredericksburg's restaurant scene on both visits.  But it turns out that we missed one of the best places to go for breakfast and/or lunch, not just on this recent trip, but on both trips we've taken to Fredericksburg.  You see, when we plan a trip anywhere, I designate myself as "concierge", researching and booking activities, amenities, sightseeing, spa appointments and most importantly, restaurants.  When it comes to places to eat, Peter and I both want to go where the locals go, and I take this particular part of my "concierge duties" very seriously.  So I can't believe I totally missed finding Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe--twice. 


My disappointment was alleviated last week, when I was browsing through the cookbooks at my local Barnes & Noble and I came across a cookbook that caught my eye: Rebecca Rather's The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Texas Hill Country's Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe.  Just when I thought I would have to wait until our next trip to Fredericksburg to go eat at Rather Sweet, I discover that Rebecca has written a cookbook featuring many of her popular recipes that she serves at her cafe.  This was serendipity at its best!  I don't plan on forgetting to visit Rather Sweet the next time we're in Fredericksburg, but in the meantime, having Rebecca's recipes close at hand to make at home will give me a delicious preview of my next meal in Fredericksburg.


Triple Threat Chocolate Chip Cookie
Adapted from The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Hill Country's Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe by Rebecca Rather with Alison Oresman

Take the time to toast the pecans and walnuts; it deepens their flavor and gives them an even crunchier texture.  I also like to chill my cookie batter for several hours or overnight before baking off the cookies.  I find that chilling the batter allows the cookies to retain their shape and they don't spread as much.  If you decide to chill your cookie batter, pull it out of the refrigerator 30-40 minutes before baking to take the chill off so that it is easier to scoop.  

1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
6 T. unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 T. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Toast the nuts in a preheated 350 degree oven for 7-9 minutes, until slightly golden.  Cool completely and then coarsely chop.  Set aside.

Melt the butter, bittersweet chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Stir occasionally, making sure the chocolates do not burn.  Remove melted chocolate and butter mixture and set aside to cool.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar over medium speed for about 3 minutes, until fluffy.  Add the vanilla extract and melted chocolate/butter mixture.  Beat at medium speed for about 2 minutes until the dough looks thick and glossy.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just incorporated.  Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips (I like to do this part by hand using a silicone spatula).  At this point, you can either chill the batter, or you can let it rest for about 20 minutes at room temperature before baking off the cookies.

When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Drop spoonfuls of batter onto the baking sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.  Wet your fingertips lightly with water and gently flatten the cookies, making sure not to press too hard.  Bake for 10-12 minutes until the tops begin to crack and look glossy.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5-10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

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