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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!

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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!

Baking Plans in a Bitter Moment

23 Sep

Guys, I am a complete loss of what to make.  Honestly, work’s such a grind, just a f*&*!ng grind, and I can’t think of anything except how ridiculous it is that Target’s using “For Those About To Rock… We Salute You” in a spot advertising a griddle.  If I listen to AC/DC, will I be inspired?  Or will I just move into the all-white neighborhood down the road from the Target and just give up, like the lady in the ad?  Organic blueberry pancakes and five-dollar butter, comin’ right up.

Well, no.  I will come up with something.  I prefer the Bon Scott version of AC/DC anyway.

Gluten-Free Baking

22 Sep

I know next to nothing about gluten-free baking, except that it’s pretty easy to turn gluten-free baked goods into bricks.  But it’s a challenge, isn’t it, to get this right just for the sake of it: I have no allergies to gluten or anything else, and neither does anyone I know.  I want to be good at it anyway.

Among the myriad issues surrounding gluten-free baking, there’s another significant hurdle to getting it right, and that’s the expense.  Gluten-free ingredients are far from cheap and it’s an enterprise that will require more tests than I can count.  Plus, I have to replace the shocks in my Saturn.  All this together means that I will be using this weekend for research.

Which leaves me with the question:  What should I bake this weekend instead?  I promised a new project, and I meant it.  Tune in tomorrow to find out what it is.

Football or Baking?

26 Aug

Pshaw!  Football, of course!  I know it’s just preseason, but my Green Bay Packers are on right now in a game against the Colts.  What of it?  If you’re not watching, the rest of my site is clearly awesome.  Take a look.

WHOAWAITTOUCHDOWN, PACKERS!  BYE!

On Food Porn. I Mean, Food Photography

25 Aug

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t have the time to learn how to shoot food in the way that food’s shot these days. You know, expensive camera aside, I don’t have time for retouching and selective focus and that perfectly perfect mess on the plate. Plus, I want to show that food can be made to look as good as it does in those retouched photos. So with me, you get the shots you get.

But according to this Wall Street Journal article, I’m either way ahead of my time, or so far behind it I’ll never have more than nine readers. As food stylist Alison Attenborough says in the article, “people are interested in small butchers, artisan producers, farmer’s markets—a more handmade look.”  See, I just don’t think that’s enough.  Think about it: You remember those shots from old issues of Gourmet? The Julia Child Menu Cookbook? Do you think Martha Stewart serves lopsided cake?  I mean, really.

I’ll give you an example of the problem.  I was in a local bakery recently to find pastries clearly made by someone who has the right touch for it. But the baker stopped short, and I don’t know why: She obviously handled the dough perfectly, but left it looking hamfisted, as though it was destined for a bake sale for the blind.  I understand that this is the trend, but why wouldn’t you want to do more?

So when you’re that close, people, don’t stop. Then you won’t have to touch up your food shots like a Playboy centerfold, and you can save all that Photoshop time for something more important: Making people happy with your bakery–and being the one who can do the very best.

More About Those Brownies

24 Aug

Obviously, I have not revisited my problems with perfectionism yet.  Right now I’m just happy I don’t have a headache, and that I do have replacements for some of the Time-Life Good Cook books lost to a move, plus a new-to-me biography of Anton Chekhov.  I’m just in no mood to get existential about all my shit at the moment.

Now, I say obviously because yeah, I’m still thinking about those brownies.  They really are a massive success, but they do soften up more than I expected overnight.  It’s not a dealbreaker, but I’m not a big fan of it, either.

I thought about how, with such a balanced proportion of fats, wet and dry ingredients, this could possibly be happening.  They really should dry out a bit like any other baked good, yes?  Well, no.  If you recall, these brownies have small jar of jam in the recipe–eight heaping tablespoons.  And guess what’s in nearly all commercial jams and jellies, and in great quantities at that?  No, not fruit.  Please.

Nah–it’s corn syrup.

If you’ve read other posts of mine, then you know that like honey and brown sugar, corn syrup is highly hygroscopic.  And A/C or not, it’s been a humid summer here in the heartland, so there’s plenty of hot hygroscopic action to go around.  I also keep my cake plate near a window of my 120-year-old house, which is dumb.

So there you have it.  Figuring this out solves another issue I was having with the lack of actual fruit flavor in these brownies.  See, in order to prevent the brownies from going soft–and again, it’s not bad by any stretch–the jam can be removed from the mix and instead heated and spread across the top in syrup form.  Well, depending on the humidity, maybe that’s a step to hold until just before serving; even just resting the jam on top will cause far less softening, but there will be a bit of softening nonetheless.  Either way, the fruit flavor will be far more evident if it’s withheld from the mix, as your tasters will be able to better discern the two different flavors.

Until tomorrow then, when I’ll fit in a post between exercising and White Collar.