As many of you know, I have fine-tuned my recipe over the years until I have reached what I consider the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  But my obsession doesn’t even come close to this person.  Read and fine-tune to get your perfect version of chocolate chip cookies:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/09/04/345530660/the-science-behind-baking-your-ideal-chocolate-chip-cookie

And in case you want my recipe, here it is.  Pay close attention to the process – it really makes a difference.

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9/20/11: I just tried something new with my chocolate chip cookie recipe and it turned out so amazing I have to record it. The background of this is that I was at Shakespeare in the Park this summer, and overheard a woman behind me talking about how she had baked her chocolate chip cookies for their picnic. I was so amazed at what I heard, I had to turn around and talk to her, and eventually she offered me a cookie to taste what she was talking about. They were AMAZING!  It boils down to two simple tips:

Tip #1: BROWN the butter before you mix the dough. Just melt it in a sauce pan and keep stirring it until it starts to turn brown. This takes about 5-6 minutes. Be sure to cool it before you add the eggs, so they don’t cook in the heat of the butter. I used salted butter.

Tip #2: Instead of 1 tsp. of regular salt mixed with the flour, toss in a teaspoon of coarse sea salt when you mix in the chocolate chips and nuts. If you wish, sprinkle a few grains on top of each cookie before baking.

The cookies gain a toffee-like richness, and the counterpoint of the pops of salt against the chocolate are divine.  I remember the woman saying that she had gotten the recipe from The Barefoot Contessa. I’ve looked in some of her cookbooks but haven’t found it — at least not yet.

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Preheat the oven to 375 F.

2 sticks butter (1 cup), melted but not hot (to brown it, see Tip #1 above)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix these ingredients together with a spoon, NOT a mixer — you don’t want air in this dough.

Mix together (don’t sift):

1 cup all-purpose flour (I prefer unbleached) plus*
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups ground oatmeal (you can grind it in the blender; be sure to press it down in the measuring cup so it’s not fluffy)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt (If you are using coarse sea salt wait and mix it in with the chocolate chips and nuts in the next step — see Tip #2 above.)

* (Or, just use 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour)

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  (You might want to start with the lesser amount of oatmeal flour, and add more if needed.) The dough should NOT be shiny or runny; it will be soft but firm enough to hold its shape.  If you have to add a bit of flour, add it one spoonful at a time, stirring after each spoonful, until the dough is no longer shiny.

Stir in:

1 12-oz. package chocolate chips (or better, half chocolate chips and half larger chunks of chocolate) (you can use milk or semi-sweet, your preference)
At least 1/2 cup of nuts (walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts), more if you love nuts
Sea salt (see above)

Now, the perfection is in the baking. First make a test cookie:

Drop a spoonful of dough (about 1-1/4″ in diameter) in the center of a baking sheet.

Put it in the freezer for about 5 minutes, just until the surface of the dough is firm.

Remove from freezer to oven and bake for 8 to 8-1/2 minutes. (You preheated the oven to 375 F, right?)

At this point, the top should not be shiny (no raw dough in the center) and the edges and high points over the nuts are just turning golden. If the center is still gooey, bake for 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. The edge of the cookie should curve around and under, like a “D” and the top should be flat. Freezing the dough helps make this happen — it slows the melting of the dough and helps avoid dreaded “Overcooked Edge Syndrome” which occurs when the edge melts flat onto the cookie sheet and overcooks. If OSE happens, put a couple more tablespoons of flour into the uncooked dough and make another test. Also, be aware that the consistency of the cookie will be different if you don’t put nuts in it, so if you don’t use nuts you may need to add even a bit more flour to make up for the architectural support that nuts provide.

When you remove the cookie sheet from the oven, let it sit with the cookies on it for a couple of minutes (preferably on top of the stove, where the heat from the oven will keep the cookie sheet warm a little longer) so that the heat of the cookie sheet cooks the bottom of the cookie just a bit longer and makes it slightly crispy, while the top stays chewy. This is important: don’t leave the cookies in the oven longer because this will cook the whole cookie, and you will lose the gooey chewiness that makes these cookies so good. When you can touch the cookie sheet, remove the cookies to a rack or paper towels for cooling.

Once you have your dough consistency and timing right, the rest of the baking is easy: drop the dough by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets, and freeze each sheetful of cookies while the previous batch bakes.

The result is a perfectly creamy, chewy chocolate chip cookie, with a slightly crisp bottom that helps hold that chewy cookie together long enough to get it from cookie sheet to serving plate to mouth, where it then melts like nirvana.

This may sound like more trouble than it really is, but it’s easy when you get into the rhythm of load cookie sheets – put in freezer – bake – cool and it is worth the little extra effort. These cookies are dense, chewy and slightly crispy on the bottom. They don’t really soak up milk if dunked (no air in the dough, no pockets for milk), but served with cold milk “chasers” there’s perhaps nothing better on earth. (Okay, so I’m a total chocolate chip cookie junky…………)

Success . . .

July 30, 2014

A fried sent this to me today — I thought you might appreciate it.

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Succeeding In Life Even If You Don’t Feel Like You Are….

We all feel like failures from time to time. While this is a normal feeling, you have to find a way to see yourself and your life from a different perspective. Sometimes we ignore the “little things.” Just because you are not a millionaire, don’t live in a mansion, and you don’t drive a fancy car, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.
Here are 20 signs that you are succeeding in life:
1. Your relationships are less dramatic than they used to be.
Drama is not maturity. As we age, we should develop maturity. So maybe your relationships were drama-filled in
your past, but if you have moved beyond that, then you are successful.
2. You are not afraid to ask for help and support any more.
Asking for help does not equal weakness. In fact, it is a strength. No person has ever succeeded in isolation. It takes teamwork to accomplish goals. Asking or help is a sign that you have grown as a person.
3. You have raised your standards.
You don’t tolerate bad behavior any more – from other people, or even yourself. You hold people accountable for their actions. You don’t spend time
with the “energy vampires” in your life anymore.
4. You let go of things that don’t make you feel good.
No, this is not narcissistic even though it might seem like it. Self-love is success. Love yourself enough to say ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t make you happy, doesn’t serve your purpose, or drags you down.
5. You have moments where you appreciate who you see in the mirror.
Ideally, you should appreciate who you see in the mirror at every moment. But even if that doesn’t happen, if you do it more than you used to, then that is success. Love yourself. You are awesome.
6. You have learned that setbacks and failure are part of self-growth.
Not everyone can have success 100% of the time. That’s just not realistic. Life is about victories and losses. So look at your setbacks as stepping stones to  something better. In reality, there really is no such thing as as setback. It’s all just part of a wondrous journey.
7. You have a support system that includes people who would do anything for you.
If you have figured out the people who “have your back” and recognized the ones who only pretend that they do, then you have succeeded. This is a painful realization, but once you learn to see the signs of betrayal, you can stay away from those people.
8. You don’t complain much.

Because you know there really is nothing to complain about. Unless you really have gone through some horrific life experience and had unimaginable losses, most of what we all experience on a day-to-day basis is just mundane. And successful people know that. And they live in a space of gratitude.
9. You can celebrate others’ successes.
Just because other people succeed, that doesn’t make you a failure. Applaud the people who rise to the top. The more positive energy you give to other people’s victories, the more you will create your own.
10. You have passions that you pursue.
You are not stagnant. You know you have something wonderful to contribute to the world. You have unique talents and gifts. Not only do you know that, you pursue it.
11. You have things to look forward to.
If you don’t have exciting things going on in your life that you are eagerly
anticipating, then you are slowly dying inside. Successful people create goals that they are passionate about pursuing. They let this excitement drive their life.
12. You have goals that have come true.
Even though “failures” are a part of life, you have stuck to your goals and dreams long enough to make them come to fruition. You have some tastes of victory. It fuels you.
13. You have empathy for others.
A person without empathy is dead inside. Empathy equals spreading love and positive energy into the world. Successful people know this. They love others as if they are family.
14. You love deeply and open yourself up to be loved by others.
Love is risky, and sometimes scary for people. It’s the one thing we all strive for, but it’s also intimately tied to the one thing we fear the most – rejection.
If you open your heart enough to love and be loved, then you are successful.
15. You refuse to be be a victim.
You know that life doesn’t always happen to you. Many times, you are a
co-creator of your life experiences. Successful people know this and refuse to be kept down by life experiences. The rise up and conquer anyway.
16. You don’t care what other people think.
You know you can’t please everyone. You know that the standards with which society judges people is many times unrealistic. So you just keep true to yourself and love the person you are.
17. You always look on the bright side.
Life can be full of disappointments – if you choose to see them that way. Otherwise, they are learning opportunities. No negative experience is ever wasted as long as you learn from it.
18. You accept what you can’t change.
Let’s face it – there many things you can’t change in life. All you can change is how you view what happens. If you can change your negative perspective
on situations to a positive one, then you are successful.
19. You change what you can.
And let’s face it again – there are many things you can change in life. Successful people don’t sit around accepting the negatives that are changeable. They get out there and do something about it!!
20. You are happy.
To me, this is the ultimate definition of success. It doesn’t matter what the balance is in your bank account, how big your house is, or how many fancy vacations you take. If you are happy, then you are succeeding in life.
Even if you don’t see yourself in many of these 20 things, don’t fret. It’s okay. Be happy that you see yourself in just a few. In time, the rest will come. You  just need to keep moving onward!

Today’s post on Seth Godin’s blog is a generous helping of appreciation for all you artists out there!

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2014/07/the-artist-who-dances-on-the-edge.html

I finished another “Beyond Horizons” quilt (4th or 5th one?) at Fire Island on Thursday evening, and slept under it for the first time that night.   This is an upcoming new class (my first “non-spiral” class) – stay tuned for details!

Machine-part mandalas

June 7, 2014

A couple of weeks ago I was in the Columbus, Ohio airport on my way back home from the National Quilting Association show.  These creations by artist Brian Riegel were on display.  He makes art from discarded machine parts.  Aren’t these “mandalas” beautiful?!

 

 

I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday with my dear friend Daniel Lundby.  Here are a few pix to inspire you!

Daniel’s faves of the day — cool quilt idea, yes?

 

 

Mandala inspirations:

Other quilt ideas:

Quilt-ING ideas – surface design and texture:

And a husband whose stash is surely bigger than his wife’s:

Here’s Daniel!

Daniel & Buddha

Mayday! Mayday!

May 1, 2014

Today – May 1st – is May Day.  May Day celebrations welcome in spring — no surprise there.  But in a completely different context, “Mayday!” is also the international distress call.  Where did THAT come from?

A quick check online turned up the answer: “mayday” is a phonetic spelling of the French words “m’aidez” which means “Help me!”  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/mayday

Quilters do a lot of helping: as I visit quilters around the country I am constantly impressed at the number of quilts you ladies and gentlemen make just to give away to people in need.  You have BIG hearts!

So today, May Day, I just want to salute all of you who spend so many hours at your sewing machines sharing your time, talent, money and love with people you don’t even know.   Thank you for caring and sharing.

 

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