Triple Chocolate Cookies

10 Feb

Triple Chocolate Cookies with Oats
Qty. approx 48

Notes:

You can substitute the cocoa and chocolate more to your tastes, and use candy bars if necessary: Natural for the Dutch-processed cocoa; milk chocolate for the unsweetened, etc.

You can use any kind of chips you like.  These cookies are a good way to empty any open bags of chips laying around.  You can also experiment with the amount of chips you use.

If you’re called away, keep the dough cool (but not frozen) until you can finish the batch.

Dry Ingredients
1¾ c. bread flour
¼ c. AP flour
¼ c. Dutch-processed cocoa
1¾ c. oats
1 c. brown sugar
¼ c. white sugar
1 TBL instant espresso
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
8 oz. white chocolate chips
8 oz. semisweet chips
4 oz. milk chocolate chips

Wet Ingredients and Fats

2 TBL unsalted butter, melted
6 TBL unsalted butter, softened
2 TBL lard or shortening (lard preferred)
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 TBL dark corn syrup
2 TBL vanilla (or to taste)
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 TBL vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place rack in the middle; line room temp baking sheets with parchment.

Begin melting chocolate with 1 TBL of the vegetable oil. This can be done in the microwave, or over direct, very low heat.  Once melted, mix in cocoa and allow to cool.

While you’re at the stove or microwave, heat up a very small amount of water to add to the instant espresso, then set aside.  Then, melt the 2 TBL of butter and set aside to cool. (That’s important!)

While the chocolate is melting, begin assembling the rest of the cookies:

Cream the butter, lard, 1 tsp of the salt and brown sugar in a mixer set to medium.  (Use beater attachments.) This will take about four minutes to fluff up and lighten in color a bit.  If you need to use a hand mixer for this, that’s fine; no need to worry about timing. Everything can sit for a few extra minutes if necessary.

In a separate mixing bowl, mix your room temp eggs, single yolk, white sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, cooled espresso paste, cooled melted butter and last TBL of salt.  (If the butter’s too warm, it’ll cook the eggs.  No joke.)  Use a whisk to incorporate the ingredients, but gently: Do not incorporate air.  If you incorporate too much air, combined with the baking powder your cookies may rise too quickly, the droop and spread.

Allow this mixture to sit for a couple minutes, mix, then repeat once more in another couple minutes.

While the egg mixture sets and activates, assemble the dry ingredients in another bowl: Whisk together flours, oats, baking powder and chips until slightly aerated and well-mixed.  This takes less manpower than you think, so be careful not to overmix.

At this point, you can turn around and mix the egg mixture.  (You’ll notice that the salt has activated the flavors, sugars, and eggs. Another stir helps this along.)  Now, you can incorporate the chocolate into the egg mixture with the same whisk.

Pour the egg/chocolate mixture into the bowl containing the creamed butter and sugar.  Mix this on low until incorporated; about 30 seconds or so.  This will not be a smooth mixture, so again, don’t overmix.

Finally, add the flour/chip mixture.  Use the lowest setting, or mix by hand.  A good rule of thumb?  Your batters and doughs are usually mixed properly well before you think they are.  Overmixing will flatten bakery, making it tough and dense.

Set the dough aside in a cold space to set the dough: About 30 minutes in a freezer, or 1 hour in a fridge or cold mudroom.  AC vents are useful for this in warmer climates, too, but if necessary, you can let the dough set on its own at room temperature for a few hours.  The melted chocolate will take care of this eventually.

Once set, use a 1½ TBL scoop to place 9 to 12 cookies on the pan.  (I always start low in case I’ve done something wrong.)  You’ll want to shape these cookies using either your index and middle fingers, or the bottom of your scoop.

Rotating, parchment and room temp cookie sheets will help ensure that your cookies do not burn.

Bake for 12 minutes, rotating at the 6-minute mark.  You can do these two cookie sheets at a time, too, by using a rack just beneath the middle one.  However, this makes rotating the cookies—turning them around and switching racks—very important.

Repeat until finished, using room temp cookie sheets each time.  You can re-use the parchment each time so you don’t have to wash them.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I washed my cookie sheets.  But you know what?  What burns never return, my friends.

Please let me know if you have questions, suggestions, or anything else.  Your feedback is important to me!

Baking for Coworkers: Triple Chocolate Cookies

9 Feb

I work in a fairly large department, fully half of which would be happy to have a Food Day every day.  Did someone have a baby?  Food Day!  Is someone going to have a baby someday, maybe?  Food Day!  Did the sun rise in the east and set in the west?  Food Day!  Hey, it’s Boxing Day.  In Canada.  But what the hell: Bust out your Crock Pot®, ‘cause it’s Food Day.

As you would expect from this description, the Super Bowl Big Game set this truly sweet—and hungry—half of the department to work.  The sign-up sheet made the rounds, with plates and napkins of course chosen first by a problematic colleague known as Meat Sweats.  (Do you really want to know?)  Others were left to choose from more complicated requests such as five pounds of nacho cheese, crab or crab-like or sour-cream-and-onion dip, and “NO CHEESE TRAYS, PLEASE.”

Now, it’s perhaps not without reason I sit pretty far away from most of the department.  (I love them–I do!– but I really don’t need to see them or hear them much.)  So when these lists reach me, everything’s usually taken except for, say, fruit fluff and pasta salad, both of which my pride prevents me from even considering.  For Super Bowl Big Game Food Day, I did what I always do: Scribble “bakery” somewhere on the bottom of the page alongside my initials.  No one’s argued with me yet.

What complicated things for me, though, was the preposterous blizzard the belted us the Wednesday just prior to Super Bowl Big Game Food Day.  I usually have a lot of baking supplies on hand, but I hadn’t done much to replenish them since Christmas; I would be damned, though, if I was going to make a trip to the store after shoveling out a quarter of my alley with only two adults and two children.  I’d have to make do with what I had around.

This proved to be easier than I expected, the reason being is that as I’ve mentioned numerous times, there’s only so fancy you can get when baking for your coworkers.  Similar to my Soft, Chewy and Creamy Sugar Cookie, I have in reserve more of my own highly adaptable recipes that allow me to switch our more sophisticated ingredients for less whenever necessary.

For this particular Food Day, I made my Triple Chocolate Cookies with Oats.  I swapped out my usual Penzey’s Dutch-processed cocoa for natural cocoa; used some melted milk chocolate along with an easy semi (all candy bars); and substituted butterscotch chips where I would’ve used chopped dark chocolate in the 80 to 90 percent range, making what resulted in the first better-than-bakery cookies that taste like Cocoa Puffs.  And you know what?  They were a huge success, just like that.

I’ll post the recipe for you tomorrow evening. Be sure to check back then for my foolproof recipe, clear instructions, and tricks and tips to help you bring the best cookies for your next Random Occasion Food Day.

Seriously Low-Carb Tzatziki

2 Feb

It was requested the other day that I make some of this stuff to have around the house.  See, when you don’t eat a lot of carbs most days, butter tends to become your No. 1 condiment.  And while butter goes great on everything, there comes a time when you realize that you’d rather polish your shoes with it instead of melting it on even one more thing, ever.  Or for a long time, at least.

The challenge tzatziki presents is that while it is a relatively low-carb sauce, the greek yogurt required for the recipe will tend to have more carbs than you’d like.  FAGE, for example, runs about six carbs per seven-ounce serving.  Not bad, unless you’re hoping to crumble your bunless burger in a bowl of the stuff because you just can’t take it anymore.  One more slab of plain meat, and you’re on a rocket sled to the Hostess outlet.  You’re [thisclose] to taking a bath in Donettes.

My solution is this:  Instead of greek yogurt, use sour cream blended with ricotta.  (Mascarpone would work, too.)  Sour cream itself is, well, sour, obviously–much more so than you might think.  What’s more, it has the consistency of slime.

But what it doesn’t have is even one carb.  To take advantage of this, ricotta can be added to blunt the sour taste as well as thicken it.  You’ll need to toss the mixture in a blender or somehow otherwise machine-mix it, of course, as the textures are quite different; with this bit of extra work, though, you’re getting a base for your sauce that very well approximates the texture and taste of greek yogurt–but with zero carbs.

I won’t give you a recipe for this, however; you’re all too smart for that.  I can tell you that I used about a half-cup of ricotta with a full tub of sour cream, and that you might want to use more or less of either depending on your tastes, but honestly, tzatziki recipes are everywhere so you’ll just need to find one you like the best.  The trickiest thing about tzatziki is that the flavors need to steep for a long time, so salting it properly the first time just can’t be exact: The flavor really will change overnight.  Which really is not so tricky because unlike baking, you can always just add more of what you need until it tastes like you want.

I should maybe cook, like, regular food more often.

Chai Cookies, Step Two

30 Jan

For step one, please click here.  For the sugar cookie base, please click here.

It’s good to note before you get started here that you’ll want the best available spices for this.  Now, if you can’t afford to spend a lot, that’s no problem; I think a strong, authentic chai could still be approximated using standard grocery store spices.  In this case, you’ll want to compensate with higher quantities of flavors that remain strong and sharp even in their cheapest state.  (Ginger and black pepper come to mind.)

What will work best, on the other hand, are bulk spices that you grind and pulverize yourself in a mortar and pestle.  Many grocery stores now carry truly inexpensive bags of bulk spices in their produce departments: Whole nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon sticks, for example.  These are also often available at ethnic grocery stores and of course, through my favorite spice house, Penzeys.

Things get a little trickier from here.  As noted earlier, an authentic proportion of spices is difficult to find in a cookie recipe.  This is where you come in.

Step Two: Chai Flavor

Consider this a great challenge as a developer, the experience of which you’ll relish even as you contemplate bashing your head in with the mortar and pestle you’ve been using for several strained hours under bright kitchen lights.  You’ll learn a lot doing this but know that you won’t have the proper mix together until your heart breaks along with your back.  Pre-mixed “chai” spices just won’t do this for you.

I can give you general guidelines, but what you’ll want to do is find a cup of your favorite chai and taste it several times with cream, and then without.  But more importantly, grab the list of ingredients, and with this you can collect the spices you’ll need.  Generally, you’ll want large quantities of:

  • Black pepper
  • Cardamom, green and black
  • Ginger
  • Star Anise
  • Cloves

Plus, you’ll need smaller quantities of standard baking spices for a well-rounded flavor:

  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Cinnamon
  • Mace
  • Orange/Lemon Peel
  • Baking spice mixes

You’ll develop your mix using the egg mixture created in step four of my standard sugar cookie recipe.  Start with a ¼ tsp of each spice, add a pinch of salt, mix and taste.  At this point it’ll probably taste like coffeecake, so start adding each of those top five spices about 1/8 tsp at a time.  (Include a dash of salt with each iteration.)

You’ll want this to be quite strong, and don’t be surprised if you’ve added more pepper than anything else; the trick is to keep going until you think it’s just about too much. Once you think you might’ve crossed the line, begin adding salt, about a dash at a time, until the flavor is full-bodied—until it seems as though it’s bloomed.  You’ll proceed with the process as usual after this.

What really brings it home, however, is adding your spice mix into your rolling sugar.  This does not need to be exactly the same as what you added to the egg mixture; it really only needs to be sharp and spicy so you’ll again want to use a good amount of black pepper, cardamom, ginger and star anise in the mix, plus wee amounts of baking spices.  Roll your cookies in this mixture generously, then bake.

Now, if in the end you find the flavor too sharp, too peppery, or too whatever, you can save these by dusting the cookies with powdered sugar; adding vanilla frosting; dipping in white or dark chocolate; or crumbling them into ice cream.  Failing that, set them out to dry for a week or so, then use them for a cookie crust topped with a soft meringue.  It’s your choice.  Either way, you will have done something special by putting the real chai experience in a mere cookie, all while honing your taste and observation skills .

Happy pulverizing!

Chai Cookies: Step One

30 Jan

I set about making chai cookies with one thing in mind: I wanted to know if I could make a chai cookie could be made to taste–and recall–real chai tea.  Which is to say, a cookie that had all of the spice and bite of chai tea, plus the softness of the cream used to cut the spice when you drink it.  I reasoned that this could be relatively easy using a creamy sugar cookie to counter what would be an enormous amount of spice.

And by “enormous” amount of spice, I do mean an enormous amount of spice.  You’ll find recipes calling for all of a ¼ teaspoon each of, say, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.  I suppose that’s tasty enough.  But what is that, really, but freezer pumpkin-pie flavor?  You need a punch–and a happy ending–to make a real chai.

But you can’t get there without a little foreplay.

Step One: The Cookie Base

This is the easy part, so we’d might as well start here.  To make a sugar cookie that’s creamy enough to replicate tea with cream, the texture will be as important as the actual flavor.  You’ll want a cookie that tastes a bit like cream or milk, yes, but you’ll want it to be soft in a way that’s reminiscent of the way tea with cream feels.

It’s easier than you might think.  You’ll start with a standard sugar cookie recipe, a chewy one, then add some dry milk and cream cheese to the mix.  Both have the flavor, of course, and the acid in each will tenderize the dough a bit to encourage more softness.  (Believe it or not, dry milk will impart a creamier flavor than the real thing.) With that in mind I developed what I call the Standard Soft, Chewy and Creamy Sugar Cookie.  You’ll find to be foolproof and highly adaptable once you’ve practiced it a few times.

Your Standard Soft, Chewy and Creamy Sugar Cookie

30 Jan

This can be adapted just about any way you want, but this works particularly well as a base or a counter for highly spiced flavors.

Ingredients

1 ¾ c. AP flour, minus 2 TBL
½ c. bread flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 ½ c. sugar, processed, plus sugar for rolling
2 TBL butter, melted
4 TBLbutter, softened
2 TBL dry milk
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 yolk
1 TBL veg oil
2 TBL vanilla (or to taste)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Paper pans.  You’ll also need to set aside extra sugar for rolling each bit of dough; round dishes work best for this.

  1. Melt 2 TBL butter.  Set aside.
  2. Cream butter, 1 c. sugar, cream cheese and salt together. Med ‘til fluffy.
  3. Whisk flours, dry milk, and baking powder.  Set aside.
  4. Combine egg, yolk, melted butter, oil, remaining 1/2 c. sugar and vanilla together.  Set aside.
  5. Add cooled liquids to creamed butter and mix until just combined.  This would be the lowest setting on your mixer.  Will be lumpy.
  6. Add flour mixture until just combined.
  7. Chill in fridge for just 20-30 minutes.  You’ll want them to be just cool enough that they resist the warmth of your hands as you roll them.  (If they’re too cold, however, they’ll spread too much.)
  8. Roll into 1 ½ TBL balls (coffee scoop), then roll into sugar.  Place 9 to 12 on prepared pans; flatten each a bit in the middle before baking.  The bottom of a flat scoop will work well here.
  9. Bake 12 minutes, rotating midway through.  Let sit on sheet when done for about a minute, then transfer to cooling rack.

Adaptations

  1. Dry ingredients should be mixed in with the flour mixture.  As it can be difficult to incorporate dry ingredients to a completed cookie dough without over-mixing, adding additional dry ingredients to the flour mixture will prevent this for you.
  2. Flavorings, such as spices and extracts, should be added to the egg-sugar mixture.  Don’t forget to add some salt activate and fill out the new flavors.  To further deepen flavors, allow the mixture to sit for a couple of minutes, stir, then repeat this process once or twice more.

Please send your suggestions, adaptations and criticisms in the comments section.  I never learn until I hear the worst.

Chocolate-Covered Krispie Bites with Mini-Chips

8 Jan

As I mentioned, I did a few things right, and this is one of them. But this was not my first go-round with these things, not at all.

I’m not sure why, for example, I thought I could throw a warm, melted marshmallow  mixture on top of krispies and chocolate mini-chips without melting said chips.  Honestly, sometimes I do these things without even thinking, and then I’m stuck with the shame of whatever preposterous thing I had in my head to do.  I wish there was a 12-step group for people like me—like, WTF Anonymous or something like that.  I shouldn’t have to do crack just get some support.

Local crack problems notwithstanding, keeping those chips intact will be your biggest obstacle. Per4manceplus’s page at ehow (found here), however, shows what should have been obvious to me from the start: Freeze the motherf*%!ers.  I mean, hello.

But then you’re presented with another issue, and that’s the basic flavor.  Most krispie treats have a flavor I’d describe as thin; it’s flavor about as full-bodied as water.  Since these were to be bite-sized and covered in semi, the flavor needed to be about as strong as a punch in the face.  I turned to the folks at Cook’s Country for ideas.

And like the freezing, I should’ve known their answer:  Cook’s Country adds white chocolate to its melted marshmallow mixture.  Better white chocolate (more cocoa butter than tropical oils) makes for a what can only be described as a sound flavor base.  I did however have to use half again as much white chocolate as Cook’s Country recommends, and easily (and necessarily) three times the salt.  (You may achieve a favorable flavor with less; I recommend adding about 1/8 tsp at a time while stirring until the flavor is full-bodied and to your taste.)

Next, as recommended by Per4manceplus, I kept the marshmallow mixture as cool as possible, taking it off the heat and stirring constantly to finish it off.  Then, not wanting to take any chances—I’d already failed more than once—I placed the bowl of marshmallow mixture into a pot of cold water.  This shock encouraged the crystallization of all the sugars in the mixture, but that’s okay: Developing and breaking those bonds help both texture and flavor and in this case, light, airy and crispy krispie treats.

Now, for the fun part.  Handling lukewarm, melted marshmallows is like using Saran Wrap with packing tape:  It sticks to itself; it doesn’t straighten out; it’s very quickly a ball of useless crap.  What’s more, you’ve got to be quick about things so the chips remain as intact as possible.  I used cooking spray on several spatulas– and my own hands–to get this stuff straight in the pan.  You will have to do the same.

What a terrible photo.

Truth is, I’m still not completely happy with them.  For starters, I think I can improve the flavor even more, and they certainly did not need to be coated in semi which, although very pretty, was a bit overpowering and an extra step that required tempering and some other assorted pains in my ass.  I mean, I’m always up for pain and sorrow, but not that much.  These will have to resurface in another form.

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