Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake



As you may remember, I spoke a little bit about my favorite childhood dessert, Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie -- a ginormous soft baked chocolate chip cookie topped with a scoop of ice cream -- in this post for Strawberry Jam Crostata. This got me wondering if I could make something similar, that captured the same magic of an over-sized cookie, but without the skillet (my oven is far too small to fit a whole skillet, and I wanted something more portable for the office). Enter the Cookie Cake, or rather a giant, soft baked cookie that can be cut in to slices and served as if it were a cake. Cookie Cakes are incredibly simple and fast to throw together, giving you all the taste of a cookie without having to portion out the dough and bake various batches. They are bound to delight your guests, because there is something downright charming about a giant cookie, don't you think?

I decided to make this Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake for a lunch hosted by my sister's lovely colleague, Alessia. Alessia and her son Nico have a true love for American desserts -- the more butter, sugar, and frosting, the better -- and had particularly fallen in love with these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies I made for them a while back. Needless to say then, this Cookie Cake was well received by all, especially Nico, who didn't speak for the first few minutes after trying it. And it's not hard to understand why -- this cookie cake is filled with pockets of melted gooey chocolate, soft and chewy and cinnamon-y, perfect served warm with a scoop of ice cream. A couple of notes: I used chocolate chunks here rather than chocolate chips as a matter of preference, but feel free to use chocolate chips. You could also use milk chocolate here instead of semisweet, but the dessert would be considerably sweeter. Finally, be very careful not to over bake this -- you want a soft cookie, not a crunchy one! Enjoy!!!

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE CAKE

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks 
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 inch spring-form pan.
 
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars with electric beaters. Beat in the egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and oats. 
Incorporate this into the butter and sugar mixture (I usually stir it in with a spoon and then use the electric beaters to briefly mix everything really well). Stir in the chocolate.

Press the cookie dough into the prepared pan. Bake for about 20-24 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm. Serves 10-12, depending on how big you cut the slices. 

Recipe slightly adapted from www.crazyforcrust.com.





Strawberry Jam Crostata

When I was younger, my parents would bring my siblings and me to Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse for dinner about once a month. If you’re reading this article from New England, it’s likely that you know this chain restaurant, though I haven’t seen any in a while and as I write this wonder if they still exist (I will look this up!) Going to Bugaboo was always a treat – I loved their chicken fingers and fries, the staff would sing to a funny song to you on your birthday, and there was a talking moose and pine tree at the entrance of the restaurant.  Best of all however was the dessert selection. True to American chain restaurant form, they were enormous in size, chocolate-y and rich, and usually topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. My favorite was the “Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie,” which consisted of a humongous, soft baked chocolate chip cookie in, you guessed it, a small skillet, topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce. 

My 8 year old self wouldn’t have been very happy in Italy, dessert-wise. Italy, you see, is not a place for over-the-top, extravagant desserts. Buttercream does not exist here, and neither do triple layer cakes, or, as in this case, cookies the size of your face. This took me a while to get used to. When I first moved to Bologna in 2009, I admit that I did miss fudge brownies, or the occasional slice of gooey, ridiculously sweet pecan pie with freshly whipped cream. But I did find myself slowly adapting to and beginning to appreciate Italian desserts, which tended to be simpler than American desserts. They are understated, straightforward, and quietly confident in their deliciousness, a sort of closed parentheses on the meal rather than another course all together. Living in Italy, I began to appreciate ending the meal with fragoline, or fresh baby strawberries, a few ciambelline, round sweet cookies meant for dipping in wine, or a slice of crostata di marmellata, which brings us to today’s post. 

Crostata di marmellata, best translated as a jam tart, would be a great example of a simple yet delicious Italian dessert. This is one sweet that you find in nearly every bar (cafés) in Italy, a small slice making a great accompaniment to a morning cappuccino. I’ve also found that most everyone’s nonna has their own recipe for crostata alla marmellata, and everyone retains that there recipe is the best. This recipe actually comes from Laura, the wife of my colleague David. David bought a slice of this tart to work one day, and I was swept off my feet by its buttery and barely sweet crust, which was complemented yet not overwhelmed by a simple layer of strawberry jam. There was no glaze, no crumble, no ganache, no frosting, no chocolate chips, and yet the dessert was fantastic nonethless. I immediately asked David for the recipe and knew that I had to share it on here with you all. This makes a great breakfast, a delicious teatime snack, or a wonderful dessert with a cup of coffee. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

STRAWBERRY JAM CROSTATA

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
A generous pinch of salt
9 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup sugar

Good quality jam of your choosing, room temperature (mine came from a  400 gram jar and I used it all -- I used strawberry jam here because it's what I like, but feel free to use whatever kind you like!)
1 egg for the egg wash

Direction:
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into this mixture using your hands, until the butter is well incorporated and distributed throughout the flour mixture, and has the consistency of sand. Whisk the sugar into the flour butter mixture. Next, make a well in the middle of the flour butter mixture, and pour in the eggs. Using your hands, mix the eggs into the flour mixture until a soft dough begins to form. Mix it around a bit more and then turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough just a few times until it all comes together, then form it into a ball. Wrap the dough in parchment paper and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Cut off a third of it and set it aside. Take the rest of the dough and form it into a disk. On a well-floured work surface, and with a rolling pin lightly dusted with flour, roll the disk out until it is about 3/4mm thick and 30 cm or so in diameter. Transport the dough to a large, lightly greased baking sheet (I usually do this with the help of my rolling pin: roll the dough up around the rolling pin, and then unroll it onto the baking sheet). Spread the jam over the dough, leaving a small border.

Next, on a well-floured work surface, roll out the remaining 1/3 of the dough until it is about 3/4mm thick. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into long strips that are about 2cm wide. You will need 8-10 strips. Place the strips over the dough to form the lattice top – you will need half of the strips put slightly diagonally over the crostata, and then the other half laid over them diagonally, to form a sort of diamond pattern. Trim the strips of dough so that they just fit onto the section covered with jam. Next, fold the border of dough over the jam to form an edge. Using your fingers, brush the egg wash over the edge of the dough and the lattice. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the dough is golden. Let cool completely before eating. Serves 8-10.  






Roasted Tomato Basil Soup



After this decadent chocolate tart, this buttery pound cake, and these addictive prosciutto palmiers, I am giving all of your waistlines a bit of a break – new year, new you, right?! – with  a lighter and healthier recipe. Now wait! Don’t stop reading just yet – if the words “lighter and healthier” make you run in the other direction, I understand. After all, those two words are often associated with other words, like “bland,”  or “boring,” conjuring up images of steamed vegetables and plain chicken breast. I do think it is possible to eat well and nutritiously without cutting out the flavor – healthy eating doesn't mean just eating salad! – and this Roasted Tomato Basil Soup is most certainly proof of that. In fact, it is one of my all-time favorite recipes, one that I often request my mom make for me when I come off the airplane after a long flight from Rome and am in need of some comfort food. Unlike the many lighter dishes, this soup is packed with flavor, thanks to slow roasted tomatoes (this transforms less than perfect Winter tomatoes into something amazing,) a good dose of basil, garlic, and lots of simmering on the stove. It is filling and satisfying, not to mention cozy and perfect for cold Winter days. It is even better the day after, and is also a good with a little freshly grated Parmesan on top. In short, it is everything a bowl of lettuce is not, and I hope you forgive me for sharing it with you only now after trying it. Enjoy everyone! 


ROASTED TOMATO BASIL SOUP

Ingredients:
3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken broth

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade, or blend with a food processor in batches (be careful when dealing with hot liquids!) Taste for seasonings. Serve hot garnished with a little basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 6-8.


Recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. 






Prosciutto and Parmesan Palmiers

Happy (belated) New Year everyone! While I promise I will be posting a few lighter recipes later on in the year to help with any get-healthy resolutions, I am fresh back from my two week vacation in the U.S and decided to start the year off with a recipe that I associate with home. 

My mom has been making these Prosciutto and Parmesan Palmiers for as long as I can remember - the recipe comes from The Silver Palate Cookbook, which acted as her culinary bible for most of my childhood (this cookbook is also responsible for these delectable shortbread cookies). They are an appetizer present at every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years dinner, not for lack of imagination - there are lots of other appetizers we could make! - but simply because these palmiers are each year, without fail, requested by our guests. Indeed, along with her carrot cake, this is one of my mom's signature recipes, and it's not hard to figure out why. These little gems consist of flaky puff pastry spiraled around salty prosciutto, sweet honey mustard, and sharp Parmesan cheese. They are positively delicious and addicting, and I can attest that it is nearly impossible to eat only just one. Yummy-ness aside, they are made with only a few ingredients, and are great at room temperature too, so you can make them ahead of time. I will point out that it is important to use good quality mustard, prosciutto, and cheese -- if your dish is only relying on a few ingredients, it is even more important that they are top notch. These palmiers are a perfect, elegant start to any of your dinner parties this year -- make them asap and enjoy!

PROSCIUTTO AND PARMESAN PALMIERS

Ingredients:
1 sheet puff pastry, 18 x 11 inches, thawed
3 tablespoons honey mustard
4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 egg
2 teaspoons water

Directions:
Place the puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface and roll out lightly with a rolling pin to make it a bit thinner. Spread the honey mustard over the top. Arrange the prosciutto evenly over the mustard to cover all the pastry, and then sprinkle with the Parmesan. Lightly press the cheese into the prosciutto with the rolling pin.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Starting at one long edge, roll up the puff pastry like a jelly roll just to the middle of the dough; then roll up the other side in the same fashion, making two rolls that meet in the center. Using a serrated knife, cut the rolls crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Place the slices on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and press lightly with your hands to flatten. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Beat the egg and water together in a small bowl. Brush the top of each palmier with the egg wash. Bake until puffed and lightly golden, about 10 minutes, flipping the palmiers to make sure that they brown on both sides. Serve warm or at room temperature.