Craving Cure: Crème Fraîche Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Crème Fraîch Chocolate Chunk Cookies by

Crème Fraîche Chocolate Chunk Cookies by

These cookies may just be the perfect solution to a chocolate craving. They’re rich but still light, i.e., you won’t feel guilty when you go back for seconds—or thirds. No judgement here! When I developed the recipe I decided to I incorporated a bit of crème fraîche that I had taking up space in my fridge. After all, tangy crème fraîche usually takes other foods I add it to up a level (remember my favorite onion dip?). The result was  a moist cookie that was full of chocolaty goodness but wasn’t dense or overloaded like so many are. I’ve made several batches and fall for them more and more each time. See for yourself.

Crème Fraîche Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour, sifted
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (check out our homemade vanilla extract recipe)
  • 2/4 cup chocolate chunks
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips 

1. In a large bowl or in a stand mixer, cream together the butter, crème fraîche, sugar and brown sugar. Mix for 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add in the eggs and mix to combine.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, mixing until completely combined each time. Add the vanilla extract and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks and chocolate chips. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spoon dough onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in heaping tablespoonfuls.  Space cookies at least 2.5-inches apart. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until almost set in the middle. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

SWWU TIp 1: Of course these cookies are delicious when you eat them right out of the oven, but I found the flavor to be at its peak a day later. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. They won’t last that long though.

SWWU Tip 2: These cookies are very moist and fragile when they come out of the oven. Make sure you let them set a bit on the warm pan as directed, then use your thinnest spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling. They will firm up as they sit.

Crème Fraîch Chocolate Chunk Cookies by

Crème Fraîche Chocolate Chunk Cookies by

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Frozen Assets

There’s nothing more satisfying than an indulgent scoop of ice cream on a hot summer day. And it’s even better when you’ve whipped up your own homemade creation. Brian and I don’t make nearly enough in our house, even though the bowl for our ice cream maker is always frozen, always ready to go. This past weekend we FINALLY checked the activity off of our to-do list and man, I have no idea why we waited so long! The creamy blend we put together wasn’t difficult, or even that time consuming to make. And the best part: We have enough creamy goodness to last us for days!

Speckled Strawberry Ice Cream by

Speckled Strawberry Ice Cream by

We started out with a classic base and dressed it up a bit with flecks of dark chocolate and vanilla bean. The addition of some strawberry simple syrup (leftover from another project) and tiny pieces of fresh strawberries made sure that every lick of this decadent treat was one we’ll remember.

Speckled Strawberry Ice Cream

(Recipe adapted from True Vanilla Ice Cream, printed in the August 2013 issue of Bon Appétit)

Makes about 2.5 pints

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons all-natural strawberry simple syrup 
  • 1 3.5-ounce bar 70-percent dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, cut into a tiny dice

1. Combine the heavy cream, whole milk, 1/4 cup sugar and salt in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center and use a knife to loosen the seeds. Add both to pot. Heat over medium and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Once sugar has dissolved, remove from heat, cover and let sit aside for 30 minutes.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining sugar for about 2 minutes or until pale. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the milk mixture to the eggs and stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup more and combine. Now pour the yolk mixture into the pot with the remaining milk mixture. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Strain custard into a medium bowl and refrigerate until chilled.

3. Once chilled, pour custard into an ice cream machine and churn until nearly finished. Once you think you have about 5 minutes remaining, add the strawberry simple syrup, chocolate pieces and fresh strawberry and continue to let the ice cream maker do its thing. When complete, transfer to a freezer-proof container and freeze for 2 to 4 hours or more.

SWWU Tip 1: Don’t have time to make the all-natural strawberry simple syrup? Don’t worry, you can skip it and have a more subtle strawberry flavor. (It really is quite a tasty addition though!)

SWWU Tip 2: Need to send someone a unique thank you note? Check out these adorable ice cream themed thank you cards you can make in just minutes

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The Perfect Pancake Breakfast

It’s been a long week and Brian and I can’t wait to get out of the city and up to the farm tonight. We’re looking forward to checking in on the trees we planted, exploring the Catskills and hanging out with some friends who will also be in the area. Of course, we’ll probably whip up one of our favorite breakfasts one or both mornings that we’ll be up there. Here’s a peek at a typical way to start the day at the farm:

The Perfect Pancake Breakfast by

The Perfect Pancake Breakfast by

What could be better than a pancake and bacon breakfast on the porch? Not much, I promise, not much.

We’ve perfected our pancake-making skills over the years and have come up with a few tips to getting everything just right every time. Here’s what helps makes this meal #1 for us:

  1. MIX IT UP: Ya, ya I know. Pancakes made from scratch are great. But you know what? Some of the ones that come from boxes taste pretty darn good too. And when I’m in a farmhouse that isn’t as always well stocked as my own home and the closest store is a trek, you can’t beat a pre-made pancake mix. Our favorites are New Hope Mills Buttermilk Pancake Mix and Kodiak Cakes Whole Wheat, Oat and Honey Flapjacks.
  2. ADD YOUR OWN SPIN: Intensify the flavor of your pancakes by adding a teaspoon of vanilla extract (check out our easy homemade version here) and a tablespoon or more of maple syrup to the batter. Occasionally I like to throw in a dash or two or ground cinnamon or ground ginger as well.
  3. USE SOMETHING UNEXPECTED: Our go-tos are pieces of cooked bacon, diced apple and chocolate chips. Sometimes we even use a combination of them all! Fresh fruit, shredded sharp cheese—the possibilities are endless.
  4. SERVE A SAVORY SIDE: Balance the sweet flavor of the pancakes with some sausage or bacon strips. We’re big fans of the options available at Hull-O Farms.
  5. TURN UP THE HEAT: Serving a bit of warmed syrup on the side makes this breakfast feel extra indulgent.

I know what we’ll be doing this weekend! Perhaps you should too. After all, I bet that special guy in your life (hi dad, sorry I won’t be celebrating with you in person this year) deserves a lovely breakfast in bed (or on the porch) this Sunday.

SWWU Tip: Pancakes with toppings cooked into them often result in a sunken-hole look. Avoid this by putting a bit of batter on top of each pancake after you’ve sprinkled on your topping of choice and before you’ve flipped it over. The pancakes in the photo above have apple and bacon pieces cooked into them, but they still look picture-perfect!

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We All Scream for (DELICIOUS) Ice Cream

I truly believe you can never have too much ice cream. It doesn’t matter if a nor’easter is blowing in snow along with a sub-zero wind chill—I’ll still crave a scoop of creamy goodness to finish off my day. Luckily, Brian feels exactly the same way. We whipped up the decadent flavor below last year, and have been dreaming about it since then. We plan to make another batch this weekend. You should join us!

Espresso Hot Chocolate Ice Cream by

Espresso Hot Chocolate Ice Cream by

Espresso Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup hot chocolate mix (such as Silly Cow Farms)
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 3.5 ounce dark chocolate bar with cocoa nibs (such as Valrhona), roughly chopped

1. In a large bowl combine the cocoa powder, hot chocolate mix, brown sugar and espresso powder. Whisk to remove any lumps, add heavy cream and continue whisking for 1 to 2 minutes or until foamy. Pour in milk and whisk for 1 minute more. Cover with plastic wrap (so plastic is touching the milk and cream mixture) and chill in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours.

2. Once chilled, pour mix into an ice cream machine and churn until nearly finished. Once you think you have about 5 minutes remaining, add the candy bar pieces and continue to let the ice cream maker do its thing. When complete, transfer to a freezer-proof container and freeze for 2 to 4 hours or more.

SWWU Tip: This recipe works best with an ice cream maker (or an attachment for your stand mixer). We have the Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker. It’s easy to use and doesn’ t take up a lot of storage space. 

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Having a Ball

Chocolate-Covered Cookie Dough Balls by

Chocolate-Covered Cookie Dough Bites by

These treats have made an appearance in our kitchen twice in the past month. They debuted on New Year’s Eve and showed up again for a baby shower (what mama-to-be wouldn’t love these?). And, since they’re egg-free you’re safe to eat as many as your heart desires. The recipe is an adaptation of my basic chocolate chip cookie dough that I’ve been tweaking for the past few years. I hope you enjoy!

Chocolate-Covered Cookie Dough Bites

Makes about 50 balls

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12-ounce bag semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • 1 3.5-ounce sea salt dark chocolate bar (such as Lindt), roughly chopped
  • 1 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl or in a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together. Mix for 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Slowly add in the heavy cream and vanilla extract; mix until combined.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Slowly add to the butter mixture, combining as you go. Fold in the mini chocolate chips and the dark chocolate bar. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or overnight).

3. Once chilled, roll the dough into ping-pong size balls. Insert a lollipop stick into the center of each ball and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil over medium. Top with a heatproof bowl, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, to create a double boiler. Add 1/3 of the chocolate chips to the bowl and allow to melt, stirring frequently. Once the chocolate is smooth, remove the chilled balls from the fridge. Dip or swirl them one-by-one into the chocolate, making sure to cover them entirely. Once coated in chocolate, gently shake off excess, and return to parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat the process until all balls are coated, adding additional chocolate to the double boiler as needed. When complete, return the baking sheet to the refrigerator for about 1 hour or until chocolate is hard and set. Transfer to airtight containers and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.

SWWU Tip: You can find lollipop sticks in your local craft or baking supply store and they’re also available on the Wilton website. I’ve used both 4-inch and 6-inch sticks, but find the longer ones are a bit easier to use when you’re dipping the dough into the melted chocolate.