Tag Archives: cost

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!

&*(@$(*! Camera

2 Jan

Once upon a time, there was a nice camera named Kodak.  It was a proud camera with a lot of megapixels and, depending on the settings, could even catch my cat doing cute things.  Kodak knew it was better than its old coworker Vivitar, which only shoots fast enough to catch the cat’s anus as it runs away.

Then one day Kodak, proud camera that she was, decided to shoot only what she deemed worthy of those massive megapixels, and sod the rest.  “Documentation’s not my game anymore, bitch!” she cried. “You and your food can just jam it!”

This is what I imagine was happening as I wiped butter, flour and who knows what else off the Kodak, which I believed held the photographic evidence of fudge that looked like vomit, brown sugar meringue that shrunk like wool in hot water and cookies that deflated like a flat chest.  And my ego.

Now, you might think it’s a blessing that I don’t have all my shots, but it isn’t.  It’s important to make a note of one’s mistakes so they’re not repeated.  It’s also important to know that those of us who are quite good at something still—or rather, constantly–make some fantastic mistakes.

I will have to do my best then to describe for you what happened.  I can tell you right away, though, that my biggest error was trying new things while under a time crunch.  I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that this will always break your heart, but as a baker my overconfidence, which I know damn well never works out for anyone, wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me.  It seems I thrive on failure the same as I thrive on success.

So sit back and check out my failures.  A little schaudenfreude never hurt anyone.

Xmas Baking for the People I Love

8 Dec

Hello again, my nine readers.  How’ve you been?

I’ve obviously been busy with other projects–other writing–but I’ve almost narrowed down the bakery I’ll be giving to my family and closest friends, which is what they’re getting because I have no money to give them anything else.  I mean, because I care.

The trick to giving bakery as gifts is this: Portability.  Your people need to be able to take your bakery home with them. Freeze it. Pack it in a lunch. Clean the tub with pieces of it shoved in their mouths.  Make it rich, make it pretty, and make it small.

So here’s what I’ve got so far.  Let me know what you think:

  • Some kind of cookie bar topped with meringue: Pretty. Will keep well. Interesting mix of textures.
  • Cookies with some sort of spice combo: Chai-ish, I’m thinking, a bit crispy and half-dipped in, I think, 70 percent bittersweet if I can keep the cookies light in color.
  • Fudge: I know an oldster who loves the stuff, but do I stick with chocolate?  I’m thinking butterscotch, with marshmallows and Werther’s bits.  Real sweet tooth, that guy.
  • Brownie cupcakes with mint patties: My recipe, and my amazing frosting, but credit Martha Stewart for the idea.
  • For the office: Bite-size crispie treats with miniature choc chips, dipped in semisweet. Remember, if it’s for the office, keep it simple.
  • For the office: Nutella sandwiches with pretzel crackers, dipped in white chocolate. (Okay, these are already done and they’re amazing.  I guessed on these. I guessed right.)
  • For the office: Brownies, of course.  They’ve been requested. These I’ll make with an easygoing, natural cocoa, though. Nothing challenging.
  • Cigarettes.

I’ll publish what happens, crap and all, as I go along.  Now as for you, I want your thoughts, your ideas, the stuff you’re baking, questions, complaints… whatever you’ve got.  I’ll be waiting with a whip.

I am challenged.

29 Sep

Yes, I said that on purpose. But I’m sure I don’t need to remind you folks of just how challenged I am.  Oh, so many challenges, and so little desire to take them on.

Except for one.

A friend of mine constantly sends me recipes from Instructables, and while I won’t break bad on the good and honest hard work of most of the posters, I will happily point out the faults of those corporations that post recipes there as though they’ve got some great insight to share.  They don’t.  They’ve got a vested interest in keeping their secrets, which annoys the shit out of me because I firmly believe that nothing, and I mean nothing, should be a mystery for the home cook.  Plus, hardcore capitalist though I am, I do not appreciate it when The Man invades a creative space with finally accessible information. I fear it won’t be long before the site is just filled with commercials.

Anyway, when he sent me this recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, I was excited to maybe get some tips for making this sort of thing at home. The video’s not bad, to be honest, but still: Imagine my annoyance when I discovered a video from Pepperidge Farm instead of great, practiced advice from someone who’d labored over these things forever because for her, Reese’s are all right, but they’re just not good enough.  You know the type.

Instead it’s a recipe that calls for Pepperidge Farm puff pastry (natch), and gratefully unbranded peanut butter, chocolate, and marshmallows. Not a bad idea, I’ll grant. But if you sit through the video as I did–it’s short, so you can still respect yourself–you’ll note a couple of problems.

1. This is truly a pet peeve of mine: There’s no mention of just how cold the kitchen needs to be in order to work properly with pastry. I understand that this is processed puff pastry, and if you’ve ever made it, there’s certainly no shame in using the prepackaged stuff. I’ll never judge. But even as processed as it is, for the best results, you need to set your A/C very low. Or, if it’s winter, open a window. If you think you’ll get cold, well, you will. But you won’t die. So suck it up and move fast.

This reminded me of the current restaurant habit to, um, artfully pile all your food in the middle of a white plate, like a very expensive recreation of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Not a fan of either.

2. The three remaining ingredients are placed in the middle of the dough in a little pile, and in this order: Peanut butter, chocolate, marshmallows.   The video also advises you to use sweet chocolate, but combined with marshmallows this will most assuredly be a cloying mistake. You’ll want to use 60% at least or, better yet, a Special Dark bar. Everybody loves those things.

3. You can probably predict the next problem: Light-brown puff pastry… light-brown peanut butter… and marshmallows that carmelize to a lovely shade of… light brown. That’s a lot of brown, people.

What can brown do for you? Nothing.

I think the marshmallow is a nice counter to the peanut butter–I’m fascinated by the combo, actually–but it’s got to be incorporated in a better way. Easy solution: Mix the peanut butter and some marshmallow fluff together. This would also offer more stability to the peanut butter, which has a rather unattractive melt.

Breaking this apart on film was a mistake, no?

Finally, I really don’t think puff pastry is the best, most attractive vessel for these three ingredients. Puff pastry is awesome, yes, but a tartlet, I think, would be far superior. It’s more work than dumping stuff on prepackaged puff pastry, yeah. But a nice, bright shortcrust, filled with a sweet-salty peanut butter mixture and topped with, say a medallion of dark chocolate? Now, that would be pretty.

I think I’ll do it.

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.

Baking on the Cheap: More Information

21 Sep

Note: Please click here for the original recipe.

Yesterday, I wrote in to give you a brief first impression of the super-cheap brownie, which was based solely on the batter.  I hadn’t even taken the sumbitch out of the oven yet, but given my impatience with weeknight baking, plus my absence over the past two weeks, I felt compelled to write something.  But I am happy to report tonight that my first impression was in fact wrong.

These brownies, made with flour, sugar, eggs, cocoa, instant coffee and imitation vanilla from Aldi, turned out wonderfully, and I’m not kidding about that.  I expected the flavor would somehow be wrong: a little metallic from the bleached flour, maybe.  Or, because bleached flour tends to resist gluten formation, I thought the flavor and texture could be too floury and dry, like a cake doughnut.  I thought the chocolate flavor would be like something out of an Easy-Bake oven, both childish and papery.  And the instant coffee?  That stuff really does smell terrible.

Now, the batter really did support my assumptions.  But the actual result?  The flavor is rich, very adult, almost as if the cocoa were Dutch-processed.  It has a distinct fruit note to it as well, reminiscent of chocolate sourced from Ecuador.  Your tasters may not enjoy this as much as I did, but I for one am very excited that something so interesting can be had for so cheap.

This is not to say that they are perfect yet.  I mean, they’re damn close, but I wouldn’t have spent, what, the better part of two months working on stupid brownies if damn close would do.  Here are some small issues, all easily fixed.

Flour:  The flour did not impart any odd flavors, nor did it resist gluten formation to the extent that the brownies seemed grainy or dry.  (I suspect this lot has a protein content in the 10.5 to 11 percent range.)  That said, despite a desirable chew, my tasters did detect a slightly drier texture right away which, although they’ve set wonderfully overnight, leads me to believe they may not stay that way.  My recipe calls for one stick of butter; as a remedy I would add, to start, another two TBL of butter.  This will add a) a bit more saturated fat to help combat this dryness; and b) a bit more water to encourage, as best it can, a little more gluten formation.  I do think this recipe, using bleached flour, could use up to another four TBL if necessary without becoming greasy.

Coffee:  I used three TBL of the instant coffee here.  And while it enriches the flavor, this much does unfortunately impart a coffee aftertaste.  After setting overnight, this is far less noticeable, so it’s not a dealbreaker, but it still shows up a minute or two after you’ve tasted it.  Two TBL, however, should work just as well.  You may also want to consider substituting some or all of the 1/2 c. of water with brewed coffee, depending on your taste.  Either way, I would not again use three TBL of instant coffee when making this recipe with house-brand ingredients.

Vanilla:  Because house-brand vanilla is a little, well, vanilla, I also bumped this quantity up to three TBL.  (If you are using a densely flavored vanilla, for example, you may not need as much.  Using an American, or at least Americanized, imitation vanilla, you very well may.)  I would recommend that when baking these brownies with house-brand ingredients, including the vanilla, you use a full three TBL.

Salt:  My recipe already calls for a lot of salt–two tsp–but either because of my adjustments or the behavior of the bleached flour, the flavor, I found, lacked ever-so-slightly the full body that makes bakery a success.   These things are right on the edge, but to be safe, when using house-brand ingredients, I would use 2-1/4 tsp of salt.

Process:  I decided that instead of adding the sugar to the chocolate mixture, I added it to the egg mixture where I could let it set, activate, then stir it every few minutes, starting the process all over again.  I did this because I was concerned right away with the cocoa: The more active the sugar, the better results I might get from the cocoa.  I’m not sure the cocoa needed any help–I am honestly impressed with it–but this is an easy process change that can only help the flavor.  And at the very least, this very active sugar added more shine to the top, and gave the edges a lovely, slightly caramel flavor and the perfect bite.

The best part of all?  The price, of course!  Nothing was more than $2 in whole and certainly far less in part.  I would estimate, then, that per 9″ x 13″ pan these brownies cost approximately $2.32.  The initial test?  The very first one, the brownies made with the organic ingredients and flippin’ $12 vanilla?  After splitting out the ingredients, those cost $8.32 and were not, I repeat, not even close to being comparable, let alone, better.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll see you tomorrow!  I promise I’ll come up with something new to bake then.