Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_7834I know there are lots of chocolate chip cookies out there, but this is my go-to recipe. I prefer cookies that are chewy in the middle, and maybe a bit crispy on the edges. This recipe is quick, easy, and consistently good. For those living in Japan, you can replace chocolate chips with chopped up chocolate bars.

Ingredients
150g (11 tbsp) butter
½ cup white sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
2/3 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (or chocolate chunks)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 180C (350F).

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking soda. Beat for three to four minutes (batter may be dry). Add chocolate chips.

Scoop dough out in 1-tablespoon balls. Place 2 inches (5cm) apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for 8-11 minutes. Don’t overbake!

Note: You can freeze the 1-tablespoon balls unbaked and then bake them straight from the freezer later. Just add a minute or two on the baking time.

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Caramel Hot Cocoa

caramel hot cocoaThis past weekend, the Tokyo area was hit by a “blizzard”. I put it in quotations because I grew up in the Northeast U.S., where 4 inches of snow is not even worth mentioning. But here in eastern Japan, snow is unusual – once or twice a year at most – and usually just a dusting. Anyway, all usual transportation stopped for a day or two, and everyone was finding alternate ways to get where they needed to go, and doing a lot of walking in the snow and slush in shoes that were not intended for that kind of use. It seems like everything has been cold and wet, and when I come home to my non-heated house, the first thing I want is hot cocoa. This caramel hot cocoa is my recent favorite – if you want it to taste more like “salted caramel”, you can add a little extra salt!

Ingredients (serves 1)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cream
1 tbsp cocoa
3/4 cup milk
1/8 tsp vanilla
sprinkle of salt (or more to taste)

Instructions

Put the sugar in a dry saucepan over medium heat until it begins to melt. Let the sugar melt and caramelize into a brown liquid. Don’t stir – but you can swirl the pan a little if it doesn’t melt evenly. Don’t walk away – it happens very quickly and the caramel can burn in an instant.

When the sugar is melted and has turned a reddish-brown, turn off the heat and add the cream carefully. It may splatter a little bit. Immediately whisk or stir, but don’t worry if it hardens up on you.* Add the cocoa and mix it into the caramel.

Add the milk and turn the heat back on medium-low. Whisk until the milk heats up and begins to steam. Then add the vanilla and salt.

* If the caramel completely hardens, just add the milk first, turn the heat on, and the caramel will melt into the milk. Then you can add the cocoa powder afterwards.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

cranberry blissThese cookies are very Christmasy! Their color of red and white is really pretty, and the sweet white chocolate goes well with the tart cranberries. A cream cheese frosting is also really nice. This recipe makes a pretty large batch, so you can definitely halve it. The original recipe is from here.

Ingredients (about 4 dozen cookies)
Cookies:
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
227g (1 cup) butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips/chunks
1 cup dried cranberries

Frosting:
200g (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white chocolate chips/chunks, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Topping:
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup white chocolate chips/chunks, melted

Instructions

Make the cookies: Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Fold in the white chocolate and cranberries.

Chill dough for 1 hour. Place rounded tablespoons on a baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 180C/350F for 10 to 12 minutes, until light golden on the edges. Let cookies cool completely.

Make frosting: Beat together cream cheese and melted white chocolate. Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth. If it’s not thick enough, you can add additional powdered sugar.

Spread the frosting on the cool cookies. Sprinkle with the chopped cranberries and drizzle with the melted white chocolate.

Oatmeal Cookie Bars

oatmeal chunk barsThese oatmeal bars are quick and delicious. They’re still cookies, so they’re not exactly health food, but they include oats and nuts and can be made with whole wheat flour. You can customize these with whatever you want to mix in. I have two common variations: chocolate/walnut, and white chocolate/cranberry/walnut.

Ingredients
1 cup flour (all-purpose or a mixture of AP and whole wheat)
3/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup oats (quick-cooking work best for me, but rolled oats are fine too)
85g (6 tbsp) butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
170g (6 oz) chocolate chips or chunks, chopped nuts, and/or dried fruit

Instructions

Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Add all dry ingredients and mix to combine. Finally, stir in your chocolate, nuts, and/or fruit.

The batter will be rather thick. Spread it in an 8-inch (21-cm) square pan, and bake at 190C (375 F) for 18-20 minutes.

(This recipe can be doubled and made in a 13×9 inch pan.)

Yuzu Black Tea Cookies

yuzu cookiesI generally don’t like citrus flavor in cookies, but the exception is yuzu. If you get a chance to try yuzu, definitely go for it! It’s hard to describe, but really tasty in both sweet and savory dishes. I adapted a black tea cookie recipe to make these. You will need a whole fresh yuzu, which are commonly available in Japan in the winter, but I’m not sure about the U.S.

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp black tea leaves (about 1 teabag)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
113g (1/2 cup) butter
1 medium yuzu (for juice and zest)
6 tbsp powdered sugar

Instructions

First, zest the yuzu, then squeeze out the juice (use a strainer – they have a large number of seeds). My medium-sized yuzu produced about 1-1/2 tsp zest and 1 tbsp juice. For this recipe we will use 2-1/2 tsp juice and 1-1/2 tsp zest.

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugars, tea leaves, and salt. Pulse to combine.

Add the vanilla, butter, and 1 tsp yuzu juice, and pulse several times to combine.

Remove the dough from the food processor and place onto plastic wrap. Form into a log shape and wrap up in the plastic. Let chill in the fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

Slice into 1/4 inch slices and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes until light brown around the edges.

While the cookies cool, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, 1-1/2 tsp yuzu juice, and 1 tsp yuzu zest.

Buttermilk Banana Bread


My husband loves banana bread, and it’s a great way to use up bananas that are overripe so they don’t go to waste. When bananas are completely brown on the outside and mushy, they are also extremely sweet. They also keep well in the freezer, so what I usually do is take those overripe bananas, peel them, and put them in a baggie in the freezer until I have enough bananas or enough time to bake. (They’re also great for smoothies!) Original banana bread recipe from here.

Ingredients
113g (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas (about 3)
60mL (1/4 cup) buttermilk (in Japan: mix 5mL lemon juice with 55mL milk and let sit 5 minutes before use)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-3/4 cups flour (Japan: mix strong and weak flours)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda

Instructions

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix well.

Add flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and mix until combined.

Bake at 180C/350F for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Pumpkin Spice Steamer

pumpkin spice steamerI’ve heard a lot about pumpkin spice lattes this season, and I can imagine the popularity. I don’t drink much coffee, though, so I thought about creating a similar drink without the coffee. It was surprisingly easy, and is much cheaper (and probably healthier) than buying it at a coffee shop. I imagine you could add coffee, too, if that’s your thing!

Ingredients (serves 1)
240mL (1 cup) milk (low fat or whole are both fine; I haven’t tried any other varieties)
2 tsp brown sugar
a sprinkle each of: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt (OR a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice)
1 thin slice fresh ginger (OR a sprinkle of powdered ginger)
2 tbsp pumpkin puree*
a few drops vanilla extract

*Pumpkin puree is not easily found in Japan. I have seen canned pumpkin once at an import store. It’s also available online. Leftover pumpkin puree can be stored in the freezer in a ziplock bag for months.You can use frozen puree in this recipe, since it’ll thaw in the hot milk.

Instructions

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk to combine. Heat over medium-low heat until steaming – do not allow the milk to simmer or boil, or a skin will develop on top.