Taste Test Tuesdays: Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Taste Testing Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

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Since I’m a mother of three young kids cookies and milk are a big draw after school. I have always bought Nestle chocolate chips because that is what I ate growing up using for baking cookies. I sampled bunch brands of semisweet chocolate chips, including one from Trader Joe’s. When shopping for chips, I looked for ones that didn’t show any bloom, the white film that sometimes develops on them. It is usually caused by dampness or when the fats separate from the cocoa, and shouldn’t make much of a difference once the chocolate is melted or baked. However, the appearance can be off-putting.

My Favorite: Trader Joe’s store brand

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Big, dark, glossy and rich are the word I would use to describe these chips. Trader Joe’s store-brand chips have just the right amount of sweetness. They have a really appealing and awesome bite. They have loads of chocolate with a wonderful, lasting finish like a fine wine. It’s a chocolate chip that does its homework, stays up late and still gets an A. I give it five stars out of five stars.

About $1.99 for 12 oz. bag from Trader Joe’s

In Second Place: Hershey’s

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This familiar chocolatemaker produces a chip that is well-balanced. I like the flavor of the chips, saying they aren’t overly sweet. The chips are dark and bold with more gloss than some of the others sampled. I will always be putting extras of these in my chocolate chip dough when I use them. They are very good chocolate, proud and upright. My only complaint is that the chips tasted a tad waxy after eating on there own. I give it four stars out of five stars.

About $2.19 for 12 oz. bag from Cub

In Third Place: Guittard

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The price of these chocolate chips were one of the more expensive chips I purchased, it was well worth it though. They have great shape, great taste. These are yummy, yummy, yummy! The chips are rich with the perfect intensity versus sweetness. They are a sophisticated chocolate chip, but too pricy for me!

About $4.99 for 12 oz. bag from Target

Also Sampled: Log House ($1.88 for a 12-ounce bag from Walmart); Baker’s Corner ($1.99 for 11.5-ounce bag from Aldi); Nestle ($2.45 for a 12-ounce bag); Ghirardelli ($2.89 for a 12-ounce bag); Roundy’s brand ($2.19 for a 12-ounce bag); My Essentials ($1.98 for a 12-ounce bag from Cub); SunSpire Organic ($5.99 for a 9-ounce bag from Seward Coop); and Market Pantry ($1.89 for a 12-ounce bag from Target).

Here’s my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe…

THE NEW YORK TIMES CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

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Make 18 cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8½ ounces) cake flour
1 & 2/3 cups (8½ ounces) bread flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1¼ cups (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 & 1/3 cups (20 ounces) semi-sweet sweet or dark chocolate chips, at least 60% cacao content
Sea salt, for sprinkling

Prep Day:

Sift together the cake flour, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed until very light, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.

Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours or Freeze at this by putting it in a freezer bag too.

Serve Day:

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Scoop 3 1/2-ounces of dough, roll into a rough ball (it should be the size of a large golf ball) and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until you have six mounds of dough on the cookie sheet.

Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes.

Transfer the parchment or silicone sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto another cooling rack to cool a bit more, until just warm or at room temperature.

Repeat with remaining dough (or keep some of the dough refrigerated for up to 3 days, and bake cookies at a later time).

Store leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Taste Taste: Mustard

I have boughten and tested a wide selection of mustards through the years. I finally have picked my three favorites and we have become very loyal to them. Over the years I’m sure I’ve tested over 35 brands.

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I found mustards to fit into the following categories:

– Yellow
– Dijon
– Deli Style and Spicy Brown
– Honey
– Full of Seeds
– Just Plain Gross!

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#1 Yellow ChoicePlochman’s comes in a easy to squeeze container (with “25% MORE FREE!*”). It’s not offensively vinegary, it offers that sturdy traditional yellow mustard flavor that you want on hot dogs and burgers. I think it’s the best mustard for BBQ’s and picnic.

#1 Dijon ChoiceGrey Poupon, still has it. It’s what I want to pull out of my glove box when a polished dude in a Rolls Royce happens to cruise by. Remember those great commercials?! It’s spicier and has more complex taste than most other mustards and it’s still available at non-hoity toity stores like Target.

#1 Spicy BrownFrench’s Spicy Brown Mustard has a nice balance of hot, sour, and sweet. It has the perfect blend of flavors and smooth texture.

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Mustard is just the little something that sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, salad dressings, and pretzels need. My family sure has dolloped, squeezed, scooped, and dunked into our fair share of mustard jars this summer. Sad to see the picnic and BBQ’n’ season come to an end.

Taste Test: Chicken Broth and Stocks

I have boughten and tested a wide selection of supermarket kinds of chicken stocks through the years. I finally have picked my three favorites and have become very loyal to them. The brands that have tested are Rachel Ray’s Chicken Stock, Wolfgang Puck’s Roasted Chicken Stock, Pacific Free Range Chicken Stock, Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth, different kinds of store brand chicken broths, Trader Joe’s Organic Free Range Chicken Broth, Emerill’s Chicken Stock, Swanson’s Chicken Broth, Glace de Poulet Gold, Swanson’s Chicken Cooking Stock, and Kitchen Basics Natural Chicken Stock.

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My criteria for figuring out winner is flavor, salt content, and body. The stock should be a clean taste and have aromatic flavor. When it comes to chicken stock, you shouldn’t be able to taste the salt, because you will most likely be adding fresh herbs to it. The gelatin gives it body, leaves a rich flavor in your mouth and gets even richer as it reduces.

Best Overall:

Swanson’s Chicken Cooking Stock – It has a wonderful chicken flavor with a nice aroma and is well seasoned.

Kitchen Basics Natural Chicken Stock – It has a natural clean flavor and wonderful aroma. You can taste a hint of black pepper, bay and thyme.

Best for Sauces: Glace de Poulet Gold – The gelatinized disk of chicken essence is dissolved in water to make 2 pints of stock. It is well-seasoned, with a rich chicken flavor. The added gelatin gives it the perfect amount of body, making this the top contender for sauce making.

The other brands lost of because they were too salty for my taste.

Only 17% of poll respondents told Food and Wine Magazine in 2003 they wish they had time to make chicken stock from scratch, which suggests most people are happy to use boxed broth or stock instead.

How about trying to make your own? It very simple and you get exactly the right amount of flavor, salt, and body. Here are two methods from http://www.simplyrecipes.com

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Method 1: Leftover Chicken Bones

Leftover bones and skin from a cooked or raw chicken carcass
Celery
Onions
Carrot
Parsley
Salt
Pepper

1) Put the leftover bones and skin from a chicken carcass into a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Add veggies like celery, onion, carrots, parsley. Add salt and pepper, about a teaspoon of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper.

2) Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to barely a simmer. Simmer uncovered at least 4 hours, occassionally skimming off the foam that comes to the surface.

3) Remove the bones and strain the stock.

4) If making stock for future use in soup you may want to reduce the stock by simmering a few hours longer to make it more concentrated and easier to store.

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Method 2: Chicken backs, wings, and legs

4 lbs of chicken backs, wings, and/or legs that have been hacked with a cleaver into 2-inch pieces. (You can ask your butcher to prepare the chicken pieces this way.)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
Olive oil
2 quarts of boiling water
2 teaspoons of salt
2 bay leaves

1) Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large stock pot. Add one chopped onion. Sauté until softened and slightly colored – 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

2) Add half of the chicken pieces to the pot. Sauté until no longer pink, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer cooked chicken to bowl with onions. Sauté the rest of the chicken the same way. Return onion and chicken pieces to the pot. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes.

3) While the chicken pieces are cooking, fill a large tea kettle with 2 quarts of water, bring to a boil.

4) After the chicken pieces have been cooking for 20 minutes, raise the heat level to high, add the 2 quarts of boiling water, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 bay leaves. Return to a low simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, then cover and barely simmer for about 20 minutes.

5) Strain stock through cheesecloth or paper towel-lined large sieve, and discard solids. (It helps to remove the big pieces of bone with a slotted spoon first.)

To Store: Pour into freezable jars and let cool, before putting into the refrigerator. Stock will last a week or so in the refrigerator or frozen for several months.

Makes about 2 quarts of stock