Saturday, December 27, 2014

Cookies for Santa: Basil Infused Chocolate Chip

I gave Santa the shock of a lifetime when he bit into these amazing and delicious cookies. On the outside they look like a chocolate chunk cookie, but they taste so much better than the classic.

The secret lies in step one, infusing the butter with fresh basil. This important step may sound odd, but the result is a hint of "something" that taste great but remains your little secret. St. Nick will definitely know these are special without being able to put his finger on what makes them so good.

I may never make another boring chocolate chip cookie again!

Infusing the butter was a simple, but important step. By putting the butter and fresh basil leaves over a double boiler, we are giving the cookie dough a soft herbal hint. I simmered two inches of water in the double boiler for 30 minutes before adding vanilla and cooling for 10 minutes off the heat. Strain the fresh basil out of the flavored butter.

The cast of characters:

Fresh basil leaves
Vanilla extract
All purpose flour
Baking powder
Baking soda
Granulated sugar
Light brown sugar
Fleur de sel
Bittersweet chocolate

Since baking remains a mystery to me, I was thankful the recipe I used for inspiration also gave the ingredient list in grams. I feel much more comfortable using a scale to measure my dry ingredients.

In my stand mixer I thoroughly blended the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, brown sugar and fleur de sel. Then I strained the butter to remove the basil and added to the dry ingredients until the dough resembled fine sand.

Lastly, I mixed in the egg and roughly chopped chocolate. Using a 1/4 cup scoop I mounded the cookies on a sheet pan 3 inches a part. I managed to get four cookies per pan. Let the dough chill in the fridge as long as possible. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

You can read the original recipe here. For directions on what I did, keep reading.

1/4 cup (4 tbsp) fresh basil leaves
10 tbsp (5 oz / 140 g) butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup (230 g) all purpose flour 
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp (140 g) light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp fleur de sel (plus more for sprinkling)
1 egg
8 oz  bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Set the fresh basil and butter in a double boiler over a few inches of simmering water. Let the butter and herbs infuse for 30 minutes before stirring in the vanilla and taking off the heat to cool for 10 minutes. Strain the butter through a sieve to remove the solid basil. 

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer combine the next 6 ingredients (flour through to salt). Pour in the butter and mix until it looks like moist clumpy sand with no floury patches. Add the egg and mix in for a few seconds, then the chopped chocolate and mix until well distributed - but not for too long!

Using a 1/4 cup cookie scoop, scoop up the dough and turn out onto a lined cookie tray, spacing each mound 3" apart. Repeat with all of the cookie dough. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for anywhere between 1 and 72 hours (the longer you wait, the better the texture and flavor).

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the cold cookie dough with fleur de sel and shove into the oven immediately! Bake for 10 minutes, until you have set edges, and a puffy, soft center. Let cool on the baking tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Christmas morning I was the only one awake at 8 AM! I could not enjoy the peace and quiet, I was VERY ready to start celebrating with my family. I had just enough time to preheat the oven and pop in our special breakfast casserole before the rest of the family woke up and joined me. If you follow the link for our breakfast casserole, let me add here that I changed the recipe to include bits of chopped ham. It was delicious!

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