Darrell's "Forget-the-Cookies- Just-Give-Me-That-Batter" Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Makes about 24 cookies

I've tried an awful lot of chocolate chip cookie recipes in my quest for The Best; I think I may have found it with this one -- thin with crisp edges and a chewy center. (Healthful options: Substitute 1/3 cup whole wheat flour for the same amount of all-purpose flour, or raisins for the chocolate chips.)

Note from FOODday: The dough contains a raw egg, so despite the title, we don't recommend sampling before cooking.

Melt the butter in a small pan or in the microwave and add both sugars while it's hot. Stir and set aside. While the butter mixture is cooling, mix the flour, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk the egg with the vanilla in another bowl, add the butter mixture to it and stir.

Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the flour mixture and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and optional nuts, and stir until everything is mixed together. Put the dough in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees about 10 minutes before you take the cookie dough out of the refrigerator. Place walnut-sized balls of dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, watching carefully. DO NOT OVERBAKE! The cookies should be moist and chewy, and lightly golden. Let the cookies cool on a rack.

Cioppino

Makes about 10 cups

In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add fennel; cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, about 10 minutes. Crumble saffron onto fennel. Stir in the tomato soup base, wine, clam juice, bay leaf, pepper flakes, salt and white pepper. Cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; add fish fillet pieces and clams or mussels. Cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until most of shellfish are open. Add shrimp; cook 2 more minutes until shrimp are opaque. Discard any shells that haven't opened. Taste for seasoning, stir in parsley and serve immediately.

Chocolate-Espresso Torte

Makes 8 to 10 servings

This torte has the light texture and deep chocolatey appeal of a flourless chocolate cake, but it's a little easier to handle because the small amount of flour gives it some structure. The espresso makes the torte not too sweet; use decaf if you have guests who don't drink regular coffee after dinner.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch cake pan and line the bottom with kitchen parchment. Butter the parchment and lightly flour the pan, shaking out the excess.

In a small, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, melt both chocolates and the butter, stirring frequently. Set aside. Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer if you have one, or an electric mixer, whip the eggs, sugar, brewed espresso, ground espresso beans and salt on medium-high speed until thick and voluminous, at least 8 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and mix in the butter-chocolate mixture. Turn off the mixer. Sift the flour over the batter and fold until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Set a plate over the torte and carefully invert onto the plate; peel off the parchment. Flip the torte back onto the rack to cool completely before slicing. Serve with a little whipped cream or a scoop of coffee ice cream, if you like.

Cranberry Pumpkin Cookies

Makes 12 large cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, beat together the margarine, pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and dry egg substitute and stir together gently until just mixed. Add the pecans and cranberries and stir gently until well-blended. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto a cookie sheet, flatten with your fingers and repeat with remaining dough. Bake for 15 to 16 minutes. Let cool before removing from cookie sheet. Note: Ener G Egg, a powdered egg substitute suitable for vegans, is sold at most natural foods stores. For this recipe do not reconstitute with water.

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Makes one 9-inch tart; 8 to 14 servings

Have the tart shell ready for filling. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof mixing bowl. In a saucepan, combine the butter, liqueur (if using) and 1/3 cup of the sugar.

Place over medium-low heat and stir until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Pour the butter mixture over the chocolate and stir with a rubber spatula until the chocolate melts.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, the eggs, the salt and the zest.

Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed or a whisk, beat the mixture until it is a very pale yellow, light and flows off the whisk in a thick ribbon when whisk is lifted out of the bowl. This will take about 3 minutes.

Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the melted chocolate, whisk to lighten the mixture, and then fold in the remaining egg mixture with a rubber spatula. Pour the filling into the pastry shell and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Arrange the hazelnuts evenly on top.

Bake the tart until the surface of the filling loses some of its shine but hasn't souffleed (puffed up), 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature.

The tart will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Note: To toast nuts, spread on baking sheet and bake in 375-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until the skins crack. To remove skins, rub warm nuts with a rough cloth.

Alice's Pecan Crunch Cookies

Makes 3 to 3 1/2 dozen

Every year my grandmother, Alice Gielinski of Garfield Heights, Ohio, sends me my favorite Christmas present: a great big tub of assorted homemade cookies. Last year, my grandma sprained her thumb and was unable to bake cookies, but she did share with me the recipe for one of my favorites, Pecan Crunch Cookies, to tide me over until this holiday.

My grandma can't remember where she originally found this recipe, but as with everything she bakes, she made so many adjustments to suit her taste and intuitive baking style that I doubt it looks much like the original. She says she prefers the ruffled variety of potato chips and that they should be crushed by hand, "but not too much." Although the cookies can be made into various shapes, she prefers oblong. The cookies can be frozen for several months.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Stir in chips and pecans. Stir in flour. Add a few drops of food coloring, if you like. Form into shapes (such as balls or oblongs), using about a heaping tablespoon of dough per cookie. Pecan halves can be pressed into the top for decoration, or you can leave the cookies plain. Place dough on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 16 to 18 minutes. Note: To toast nuts, spread on baking sheet and bake in a 375-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until brown.

Chocolate Pepper Cookies

Makes 3 to 4 dozen

I have been making these chocolate cookies for at least 15 years. The pepper and cayenne give them a little kick that has most people asking, "What's the secret ingredient?" -- in between noshing away!

You can freeze the cookies and then defrost and decorate before serving. You can also freeze the dough. The cookies are also sturdy enough to mail if they're wrapped and packaged appropriately.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat until mixture is fluffy.

Sift together the flour, 11/2 cups cocoa, salt, black pepper, cayenne and cinnamon. Add to the butter mixture and beat until well-mixed; if dough seems too soft, add up to 1/4 cup more flour. Shape into a flattened disk, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Dust a cutting board with cocoa and roll out the dough until 1/8 inch thick. (It's best to divide and roll out one-third of the dough at a time, leaving the remainder in the refrigerator.) Cut dough into desired shape with a cookie cutter and set cookies 1 to 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut out once more.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until crisp; do not allow to darken. Cool on racks.

Melt the chocolate and drizzle randomly over the cooled cookies. You can do this by dipping a fork in the chocolate and then twirling it over the cookies. Allow the chocolate to set before serving.

FOODday's Walnut-Pecan Squares

Makes 18 large squares

These are FOODday's version of a popular Elephants Delicatessen cookie. They are very rich, so you might prefer to cut them into bite-size (1-inch) pieces instead of the 3-inch squares sold at the deli.

Crust:

Filling:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-by-15 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, allowing a 1-inch overhang on two ends (to make lifting baked crust from pan easier). To make crust: In the bowl of a mixer, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well-combined.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until dough comes together. Pat the dough evenly into the prepared pan, building up the edges slightly. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes or until crust begins to brown and set. Remove from oven and cool.

Reduce oven to 300 degrees. Place a large sheet pan on the bottom oven rack to catch drips. To make filling: In a medium saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, honey and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for exactly 21/2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in pecans, walnuts, cream, salt and vanilla. Pour filling into cooled crust and spread evenly.

Place on center oven rack over the sheet pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling in the center. Cool overnight.

Cut into squares and serve. Note: To toast nuts, spread on baking sheet and bake in 375-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until brown.

FOODday's Chewy Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies

Makes 5 to 6 dozen

These are similar to the Black Angus Cookies from the now-defunct Ron Paul Charcuterie -- very chocolaty, gooey on the inside, crusty on the edges -- but our version makes smaller cookies suitable for holiday platters.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper.

In top of a double boiler over hot water, place chocolate and butter and heat until melted, stirring occasionally; set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, espresso powder and vanilla. Beat with a wooden spoon, or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, until well-combined. Pour in the chocolate mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the flour mixture, pecans and chocolate chips.

Drop dough in 2-tablespoon portions (or use No. 50 scoop), 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake 11 to 13 minutes, until cookies are still shiny but are beginning to set in the center. Do not overbake. Remove immediately to wire racks to cool. Note: To toast nuts, heat in a dry skillet over medium heat until they start to brown. Stir occasionally. Be careful not to scorch them. Or, spread on baking sheet and bake in 375-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until brown. Or, spread nuts on a paper plate or in a microwave-safe pie pan. Microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once.

FOODday's Cranberry Ecstasy Bars

Makes 16 bars

These bar cookies are similar to Starbucks' Cranberry Bliss Bars, which are a popular accompaniment to eggnog lattes during the holidays.

Cake:

Frosting:

Drizzle:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with parchment paper and then grease the paper. To make cake: In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; continue mixing until light. Sift together flour, ground ginger and salt; add to the butter-sugar mixture. Continue mixing until flour is incorporated. Fold in dried cranberries, chocolate and crystallized ginger. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely in pan. To make frosting: In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and salt until well-mixed.

Remove cake from pan and trim off the edges so cake is uniformly flat. Using an offset spatula or the back of a large spoon, uniformly spread the frosting onto top of cake. Sprinkle minced dried cranberries on top of frosting and refrigerate for 1 hour. To make drizzle: In a small saucepan over low heat, melt white chocolate, whisk in powdered sugar and milk until well-mixed. Scrape into a small, sturdy plastic bag; cut a tiny corner of the bag and squeeze to drizzle chocolate decoratively over the entire frosted cake.

To serve, slice the cake lengthwise down the center, making two long rectangles. Cut each rectangle into four equal portions; slice each of these in half diagonally.