Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now that we have eaten tons of Thanksgiving Day food, I'm ready for a change of pace.  No more green bean casseroles, sweet potatoes, or turkey for me!  I'm heading toward the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  Since this information is highly proprietary, let's give credit where credit is due. The recipe was created by Jacque Torres, and published to the public by the NY Times as being the absolute most perfect chocolate chip cookie.  It first peaked my interest as being pinned by a friend on Pintrest, then I followed the link.  Having just finished reading Tendercrumb's blog, I had to share it with you.  Perfection doesn't come without a little hard work, though.  Here are a few tips...
  • Don't substitute regular all purpose flour.
  • Chop your own chocolate.  Buy a couple pounds of bittersweet chocolate made by a good company.  Roughly 60% cacao would be good. 
  • Refrigerate the dough.
  • Do not overbake.
When I make these, I will post a follow-up article on my review of the recipe.  Here's the kick-butt recipe, exactly as published on Tendercrumb.  Drum roll please....

Jacques Torres' Secret Chocolate Chip Cookie RecipeMakes twenty-six 5-inch cookies or 8 1/2 dozen 1 1/4-inch cookies
Ingredients
1 pound unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons pastry flour
3 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Directions
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.
- Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Reduce speed to low and add both flours, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, and chocolate; mix until well combined.
- Using a 4-ounce scoop for larger cookies or a 1-ounce scoop for smaller cookies, scoop cookie dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
- Bake until lightly browned, but still soft, about 20 minutes for larger cookies and about 15 minutes for smaller cookies.
- Cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

I don't know whether the photo is copyrighted or not, but just in case let me tell you that if so it is owned by Tendercrumb.  I hope to post my own photos after I make a batch.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Women of Faith Conference in Kansas City, MO -- Nov 4-5, 2011

If you've seen my posts on Facebook over the last several months then you know I have been totally psyched about Women of Faith coming to Kansas City, MO!  This was an awesome time of women speaking to women, challenging us to live our faith in a completely "over the top" kind of way.  I will be posting pictures soon.  For those of you who did get to enjoy this, but you have non-buyer's remorse (meaning, you regret that you didn't purchase some swag at the conference)... visit this link to hook yourself up.

If you couldn't breakaway for a girls weekend this last Friday & Saturday, then it's my sisterly responsibility to remind you that there are only two conferences left this year!  I hope you can find time to squeeze one of these into your schedule.  Tickets are $99 each, and you can purchase them online here.

"Over the Top"         November 11-12, 2011        Oklahoma City, OK
"Imagine"                     November 11-12, 2011        Hartford, CT

I just Mapquested the drive from Branson, MO to Oklahoma City, OK and I am happy to report that it is only 5 hours and 32 minutes.  Since most of that is interstate, this makes an ideal mini-vacation for this weekend!

I have more great news!  Women of Faith has released their event schedule for 2012.  Here are some dates for conferences near Branson, MO:

"One Day"              March 31, 2012                Wichita, KS
"Dream On"*          April 14, 2012                   Oklahoma City, OK
"One Day"              June 16, 2012                    Little Rock, AR
"Celebrate"             November 2-3, 2012         Kansas City, MO

*This is part of the Revolve tour, which is for young ladies in junior high and highschool.

If you need to stay closer to home, let me offer an alternative.  There will be a James River women's rally Friday, November 11, 2011 (this weekend)!  It will no doubt rock the house starting at 7 pm.  Be sure to get there early for a good seat.  If you need a friend to sit with, send me a Facebook message so I can find you.  James River Assembly is located just off Hwy 65, north of Branson in Ozark, MO.  Go like you are going to Lamberts.  Then turn left at the first stop light and it will take you straight to the church parking lot.

A Lasting Impression - Tamera Alexander

Several months ago I had the pleasure of reading "From a Distance" by Tamera Alexander.  It was a well-written book with a strong plot.  Because she was published by Bethany House, I had every confidence that this new-to-me author held promise.
Let me emphatically say that after reading "A Lasting Impression" I can see that my confidence was not misplaced.
The book is set in Nashville, Tennessee in 1866 just after the Civil War, with some of the main characters having fought in the war themselves. The author did an excellent job of portraying the South's struggle to regain its footing after the war.  I got the distinct feeling that there were several historically accurate events depicted in the book, but that the author had respectfully changed the names of the people.
In writing this review, I noticed the fine type on the cover just under the title says "A Belmont Mansion Novel."  My pulse quickened and I immediately flipped to the inside of the book to confirm what I hoped to be true, and -- YES! -- this is the first in a series of books based in Nashville on the Belmont estate.

In the Author's Note, Tamera says that this book took her two years to research and write.  Since the book is packed with history, emotion, and a very creative plot I don't doubt that at all.  After reading this, you can't help but do a little research of your own to learn more about Adelicia Acklen.  I have included a photo of Adelicia Franklin Acklen Cheatham and a photo of Belmont here.  After all, this belle of the south was one of the wealthiest people of her era.  Throughout her life she experienced great loss (the death of all four children from her first marriage, the death of child twins from her second marriage, and the loss of two husbands), great wealth, and exhibited strength of character through it all.  She is considered courageous because when she learned that the Union soldiers were planning to burn bales of cotton at her Louisiana estate, she traveled from Tennessee to Louisiana and conducted the sale of that cotton to a client in Liverpool, England for the total sum of $970,000.00.  I cannot imagine a more interesting person to write a novel around.
My last note on this review is that the book is a longer-length novel, and I encourage the reader to settle in with a blanket and a cup of coffee to enjoy it -- over several days.  You can buy this on Amazon.com for $9.22 + shipping.  It's worth it!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Embers of Love - Tracie Peterson

"Embers of Love" is book one in the new "Striking a Match" series by Tracie Peterson.  Since I have read a number of Tracie Peterson books and loved them all, I began this one with high expectations.  My opinion is that this a very "safe" book, and the author doesn't take many risks.
Strong emotion isn't shown, except when Mrs. Foster learns that her son has had a logging accident.  When Euphanel's son has a similar accident, I was left cold and surprised at the lack of emotion shown from this mother.
The plot encompasses more than one main character.  Perhaps because of this, not as much attention to detail was given to any one character.  The love story between Lizzie and G.W. (which I accidentally mentally pronounced "G.Q." almost every single time when I read it) seemed underdeveloped.  The initial dilemma they faced at the beginning of the book was overcome just a little over mid-way through.  I had the feeling that the story was over and winding down.  Still, since it was so early in the book, I was expecting retaliation from Stuart Albright later on, but it never came.  I wondered if there was a romantic attachment between Euphanel and Arjan, but if there was nothing was made of it.  I felt that overall it was more of a prequel to the second book in this series which is to be about Deborah.
This book was not as gripping as some of her novels.  While I was able to download it for free to my Kindle last week, I believe that the special is over and they are now charging the regular rate for the book.  It was well worth my time reading it, but I'm not confident that I will read the second book in the series.