Tag Archives: emulsifier

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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Easy Like Lionel Richie

2 Jan

Rest assured, there are more failures to write up for you, my nine readers (see below to start), but before I retire for the evening, I’d like to leave you with a small little trifle that turned into a big success.

I mentioned in an earlier post that making the best holiday treats means making small, handheld, easily transportable treats.  This means that sweet little candy-ish things that’re made assembly-line style while you’re parked in front of a “completely legal” feed of, say, weekday football games…well, these treats are as perfect as that sentence isn’t.

This brings us to it, and it’s based on the very popular chocolate-coated Ritz-and-peanut-butter sandwiches that a lot of people make this time of year.  I love those things.  But for these new treats, I came across some perfectly round pretzel crackers, a little larger than a quarter.  A freak for all things salty and crunchy, I knew there had to be a good use for these.

First, I ate used an entire bag myself while watching an episode of “Burn Notice.”

But, I also managed—somehow–to save the remaining bag and thought that instead of peanut butter, I could make use of a jar of Nutella that’s been taunting me since I bought it in the summer.  Honestly, why do I do this to myself?  This is a carb-free house.  Usually.

So, two pretzel crackers, salt side in, Nutella and… what kind of chocolate to coat?  After several taste tests it was decided to go with white chocolate, which would also provide a really nice color contrast.

There are a couple of tricks to making these successfully, the first of which is the most important: As Nutella liquefies quickly under heat, make sure these are fully chilled before dipping.  Unlike peanut butter, to which saturated fats are added for stability, Nutella is gooey paste, made of hazelnuts, cocoa solids and here in North America, modified (with more unsaturated fat) palm oil.  It doesn’t stand on its own.

To keep the flavors balanced—they’re all very strong—keep the layer of Nutella pretty thin, and add about a TBL of shortening (or more) to your white chocolate to thin it out.  Then work quickly: Even very chilled, some Nutella will get into the white chocolate.  So long as it’s not much, though, it’ll mix right in.

Then throw them on some wax paper to set.  Some decoration really adds to them, such as a light dusting of white sanding sugar, chocolate cookie crumbs, or whatever cute things you have handy.  It doesn’t really matter, because people will love these no matter what.  Trust me on this.  Have I ever steered you wrong?

Don’t answer that.

What Can Brown (Cookies) Do for You?

2 Jan

Chocolate-chips cookies are a holiday staple.  Scratch that: They are a staple, period.  You can, for example, buy chocolate-chip cookie cereal, which is a grain and, according to the MIT food pyramid, one needs six to 11 servings of grains per day to live a wonderful life.  Suck it, gubmint food nannies.

Anyway, despite the fact that I have developed a foolproof, infinitely adaptable chocolate-chip cookie recipe (see here for a maple version), I decided that having had success fiddling around with saturated/unsaturated fat ratios in brownies, I would try to replicate that same, very desirable chew in cookies.  I have been close using combinations of butter and lard, but the chew eventually gives way to softness and while that’s still good, I wanted to bake a cookie that remained chewy over time.

So, here’s what I did, using a standard quick-bread mixing method:

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. oatmeal
1 ½ c. dark brown sugar
8 oz. semisweet chips
2 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
Raw sugar for decorating

1 lg egg
2 TBL vanilla
12 TBL butter, melted
2 TBL lard (melted with butter)
2 TBL vegetable oil

These did turn out chewy… after biting through the tortoise-like shell.  What’s more, the dark brown sugar made these things very, very brown and combined with the oatmeal, they tasted a little like granola.  Here’s what I think happened:

Because I was using cooking oil, I omitted some of the ingredients used to soften cookies, thinking that it might be too much, like when I added too much honey to a previous batch.  And while the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats might be right for creating that awesome grocery-store chew, not all saturated fats behave the same.  That’s why and additional egg yolk is often used to soften cookies and encourage some chew.

I also omitted a TBL of corn syrup, also useful for softening and chew, given its hygroscopic properties.  But plainly, one or the other or both should have remained in the recipe.  Or, one of the two, and only one TBL of vegetable oil… you get the idea.  I have to continue experimenting, and I’m just not smart enough to know what will happen, exactly, before I do it.  (Off the top of my head, though, I think the best bet’s to add one egg yolk, and reduce the oil by one TBL.  The egg yolk will emulsify–suspend–the water in the butter and the oil together.)

The quantity of dry ingredients is also just a bit too high, I think, also evidenced by the cookie’s stiffness and granola flavor.  Reducing the flour and oats by a ¼ each would probably do the trick.  The dark brown sugar, which contains a very high quantity of molasses, also added to the granola flavor.  And of course, the ridiculous brown color.

They were still quality cookies, though.  I put them out at the office without owning up to them–they were too brown and I’m too vain–but they were gone in an instant.  But that could also be because, as one of the least favored in my work group, no one knew the cookies came from me.

Sunday Fudgy Sunday

2 Jan

The original plan was to help out an old man with a sweet tooth.  I mean, a real sweet tooth.  I’m not talking about the coworker who cuts a quarter off a muffin with a butter knife, proclaims herself to be naughty, then pukes it up in a bathroom on a different floor.  No, I mean I think that old guy eats sugar packets when we’re not looking.

This makes him an easy target for fudge, seeing as how that stuff, no matter how you make it, is nearly all sugar.  Personally, I’m not much of a fan; the kind I’ve had is the kind of fudge sold in cute country stores and is always, and unrepentantly, dried out.  Can’t figure out why a proprietor would leave a large, uncovered tray of fudge in a refrigerated case.  Transmission fluid would dry out if left uncovered in a refrigerated case.

And traditional fudge can be tricky as it is: Like all candy, the temperature to which you heat your sugar will determine its characteristics and in this, precision is key.  If your candy thermometer is off, your candy will be off.  If your timing is off, your candy will be off.  In this case, heating the sugar component of fudge too high will produce a dry, crumbly fudge, which is how I suspect a lot of fudge is sold at the start.

(On a side note, I would like to meet the people who will pay American dollars for what tastes like candied sand, because boy, have I got some serious rejects available for those fools.)

So while all of this is true, there actually is a very easy way to produce better-than-average fudge without regard to precision, temperature or technique.  I can’t take credit for it; it’s a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that uses sweetened condensed milk, chips, and a little baking soda to add just enough air to keep it from being too dense.  (I’m sorry, but the recipe is not free, so I can’t reproduce it here.  But if you search for “15-Minute Walnut Fudge,” you might get lucky.)

The recipe is in fact so easy, I thought I could substitute just about any flavor chip I wanted to make the fudge.  It’s the sweetened condensed milk and baking soda doing the work, both of which could hide a multitude of sins considering that precision and temperature were not involved.  With that in mind I decided, having made plenty of chocolate fudge for our favorite old guy in the past, I’d make butterscotch fudge for him using butterscotch chips, marshmallows, and chunks of Werther’s.  Pretty damn sugary, that.

This did not work out at all.

First, although the largest constituent of all chips is sugar, all bets are off after that.  Naturally, I didn’t bother to check this or even think about it knowing full well that if the type and amount of fat varies greatly between white and dark chocolate, maybe I ought to check out the content of the butterscotch chips because, you know, they’re not chocolate.  But whatever, right?

The butterscotch chips I used (purchased from Aldi and believe me, that store brings it in sweets department) actually have a remarkably high amount of palm oil in them, nearly as much as the sugar.  If you’ve worked with palm oil, then you know that while it solidifies at room temperature, it’s still very malleable.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s a superb idea to use palm oil for this purpose.  White chocolate coatings will use more palm oil than shortening, making it cheaper and easier to work with; better peanut butters use palm oil instead of shortening, too, to give it that creamy texture.  As for butterscotch chips, there’s a huge gulf in taste between those made with palm oil and those made with shortening.  That said, the crappier-tasting, shortening-laden butterscotch chips would’ve been better suited to making this variety of fudge.  Here’s why.

Once mixed, melted and cooled with the sweetened condensed milk, baking soda, salt and vanilla, it never set properly.  Palm oil, though it’s solid at room temperature, is still 49.2 percent unsaturated fat.  The stuff is, like, half cooking oil, basically.  Combining this with gooey sweetened condensed milk made it impossible for it to set.  Chips made with shortening, which is a fully saturated fat, would probably set up just fine.

Then there were aesthetic issues I didn’t anticipate, but should’ve.  Butterscotch chips are an orange shade of tan and to combat this, I thought adding white marshmallows would add a nice contrast.  Except that the marshmallows ended up coated in orange-tan goo and were too large even in the miniature variety.  This made for orange-tan goo with lumps.

No problem, I thought; these shiny Werther’s chunks I just pulverized with a stubby hammer will look shiny and great even though the bag broke and there’s butterscotch dust everywhere.  Okay, that’s a lie.  “Oh shit!” was what I thought immediately.  But I added the Werther’s bits to the top anyway, which made for orange-tan goo with lumps and chunks.

I pretty much knew there was no hope at this point.  But I thought that maybe I’d get lucky–that cutting into them would reveal this marvelous contrast of colors and textures and regardless of what the tops looked like, maybe that’s what people would see first.  And maybe it would’ve been if my orange-tan goo with lumps and chunks had solidified at all.

Instead, it’s sitting in my uninsulated mudroom, held back in an old Tupperware container like some slimy alien, its nasty gooey arms clinging to the sides as if it’s going to kill me for this when it breaks out.  This fudge could be the end of me.

Please note that despite all this it is ridiculously delicious, so I will do something with it someday.

Fruit Swirl Brownie Test No. 3: Process Changes

22 Aug

Note: This post will necessarily be long. Please read about the flavor changes for more information.

I’m afraid that I’ll be detailing the home version of the Fruit Swirl Brownie with yet another headache. I’ll do my best to keep it together for you, but I wouldn’t expect to win a Pulitzer with this post. I appreciate your patience, which is probably more than I have for myself at the moment.

As you recall, the recipe for the Honeypie Big Fruit Swirl Brownie piqued my interest because of its simplicity, coupled with a richness that as depicted in the photo compelled me to test the concept and the science of the recipe. Because if it actually worked, it would really be a bit of a breakthrough.

But, as you’ll also recall, I did find that although the concept was a great one, the flavor and texture was somewhat lacking in the richness that caught my eye in the first place. I used the same ingredients noted, and went broke buying them, but the brownie’s flavor was a somewhat thin-tasting and sugary slice that overnight became disturbingly spongy and greasy. Which is okay in a bakery, where the goods sell out quickly and are served with accompaniments, but this is not my project. My bakery needs to start perfect and stay perfect. Period.

Now, I do not want to disparage Honeypie’s recipe at all. I wanted to prove the concept to be a great one: That fat can carry cocoa flavor to the extent that a seriously chocolately brownie could be made with cocoa only, rather than with the added hassle and expense of melted baking chocolate. But even minute differences in techniques, air quality, and certainly equipment can create additional issues for a bakery recipe made in the home, so accomplishing this in the home kitchen simply needed a different approach. And I was determined to find it, because I hate being wrong.

In my second test of the recipe, I’d made significant headway in terms of the flavor. Only a couple of tweaks, and I knew the flavor would be sorted. So the texture was my first order of business.

Process Changes

I remembered reading about the types of fats used to give box brownies their chewy texture. (Thank you, Cook’s Illustrated.) I didn’t necessarily need to make a chewy brownie, per se, but I did want to maintain the high fat ratio necessary to create a superior chocolate flavor, but that wouldn’t become greasy overnight. Cooking oil, which is used to make chewy brownies, remains the same no matter the temperature so I could not only maintain the fat ratio, but also create a texture that wouldn’t degrade over time on the cake plate. Rather than use the three sticks of butter used in the original, I reduced the amount of butter a bit, then split the remaining quantity with oil

The seven eggs used in the original recipe also proved to be an issue, if you remember: The high quantity of eggs caused the original batch to bake unevenly because using seven (seven!) eggs properly requires a bain-marie, and that’s too much work for brownies. I also couldn’t really grasp the science that would call for seven eggs, when I really thought about it. I could be mistaken—absolutely possible, that—but rather than force the issue, I cut down the eggs to two whole, plus two yolks. The two whole eggs is a pretty standard quantity that would incorporate more easily and in a proportion that requires no special care in the oven. And if you’ve made chewy cookies, you know why the extra egg yolks will help your cause.

These fixes—the oil, the eggs, plus a higher proportion of dry ingredients—solved the greasiness problem. The sponginess still needed to be addressed, however, but this was solved easily by skipping the creaming step. I’d thought initially that it was necessary to incorporate air into the structure to keep these brownies from becoming too dense, but in the end it created a not-quite-cakey texture that was odds with the flavor and did not adequately support the fats.

Using melted, rather than creamed, butter (and the oil, too) gave me a way to create the intense flavor of melted chocolate, too. This is done by simply adding the sifted cocoa to the warmed butter, the heat from which also allows the flavor to bloom fully. (In a pinch, cocoa and oil can be mixed to create unsweetened chocolate for baking, and sugar can be added to create bitter- or semisweet chocolate right to your taste). Add the espresso paste and the water to this, and you in effect seize it, giving it the actual mass that intensifies the flavor for your final product.

If you’re concerned about what this lump of chocolate will do, don’t be; a tablespoon of oil can be added to decrease the density if you’re more comfortable with that. But that lump does mix in smoothly with the egg/vanilla mixture regardless.

The best part about these process changes? For a more refined look, I do still think it’s important to sift your dry ingredients and process the sugar to a superfine texture. But this isn’t completely necessary. So if you skip that, you needn’t pull out your mixer and all its attendant parts at all. The most complicated thing you need to do in my recipe is melt butter. You could even use the microwave for that if you want. Everything else is mixed quickly and easily by hand.

Please contact me here with questions. You can find the final recipe here.

Fruit Swirl Brownie Test No. 3: Flavor Changes

22 Aug

Note:  This is part one of the test results.  Please read about the process changes for more information.

Flavor Changes

In terms of better flavor, my second test was awfully close, but still not quite there.  So I increased the quantity of cocoa and salt, and reduced the amount of sugar by just a bit.  I put the sugar to use as more than just a sweetener instead.

Part process change, part flavor change, I used the sugar as an activator by allowing the sugar to dissolve and rest in the chocolate-egg mixture for a few minutes.  What happens is that the sugar dissolves fully over time in the available moisture—the egg whites, the water content of the butter—and once heated, the sugar carmelizes, in a way, bringing with it a fuller, richer flavor.  Not to mention some very refined edges when it migrates to the sides and surface.  I intend to incorporate this process, well, wherever possible.

As for your cocoa, I still recommend Dutch-processed cocoa.  (With the success of this test, I will now use Penzeys high-fat Dutch-processed cocoa exclusively. It’s just champion and extremely well-priced.)  I still think you can use a natural cocoa if that’s your preference, but you may have to make some allowances for it.  A bit more fat and espresso paste, a bit less vanilla and sugar… these come to mind.

Finally, I have settled on cherry jam for this, but you can use whatever you want to try.    This does present the last remaining flavor issue, though:  The jam’s flavor still doesn’t come through well enough.  It provides great support for the texture, which in turn supports the flavor; but the fruit flavor’s not terribly evident.  I still recommend using it—it’s certainly in the background–but I also now recommend that you heat some up on the stove, then either drizzle it or spread it over the top.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m confident in this as a solution.

Please contact me here with questions.  You can find the final recipe here.

Margarine, AKA Vomit.

18 Jul

There have been times in the world’s history when butter substitutes like margarine made sense.  Here is a list of those times, none of which have anything to do with our lives today:

  1. The unrefrigerated 19th century (but only the latter half)
  2. Feeding the lower classes in France
  3. World War I
  4. World War II

Before starting this essay, I really must tell you that according to Wikipedia—wait, sorry, I have to finish laughing—so as to avoid confusion, one could not actually buy yellow-colored margarine in Quebec until July, 2008.  What does this mean?  While the unwashed masses in France used margarine to slather their croissants, and probably gladly, the French in Canada could not be trusted over the last 160 years or so to discern the difference between real butter and the shit in a tub that’s one carbon-chain away from plastic.  Which proves my theory:  Canada is dumb, and isn’t a real country anyway.

Anyway, Canadian futility aside, the reality here is that in the Western world, there’s really no need for margarine.  We don’t need to worry about how to keep food without refrigeration, and I’m quite certain that the lower classes in France today have far better benefits available than all of us combined.  So who cares how they butter their bread?

Now.  Margarine–and this is key–is disgusting. I hate it nearly as much as I hate popcorn, and that’s fucking fat lot of hate, people.  In fact, I’m sure my room in Hell is going to be filled with movie popcorn soaked in that nasty butter-flavored ooze.  Man!  I swear I’ve been around wet spots more appetizing than any tub of margarine.

What’s curious to me, then, is how margarine persists.  To say that margarine’s health claims are debatable is putting it mildly, considering its high level of industrial processing.  I mean, how much healthier is a chocolate-chip cookie made with margarine when that cookie also includes refined flour, a cup or two of brown sugar, and a bag of chocolate chips?  How is making those cookies with a half-cup of solid, manmade processed oil product somehow better for you than those same cookies made with two sticks of naturally occurring butterfat?

So I guess I understand its practicality.  It’s spreadable and will keep well during nuclear winder.  But the flavor is so horrifying, and the color so foul, I can’t understand why you wouldn’t just plan ahead and leave some butter on the counter, available there for all your spreading needs.  Honestly, margarine can’t be that practical when it’s also that gross.  But I do understand that some of you grew up on margarine, and continue to use it for that reason.  I suppose I can see why some will still spread it on toast, or a muffin. But for cooking?  Baking?  This should be a crime.

The main reason is this:  Like butter—like most foods, actually—when margarine is heated, its character will change drastically, and in this case, for the worse.  Its utility, its flavor…all of it.  Particularly when melted, all of margarine’s flaws, which are too numerous to be counted, will be amplified and unavoidable.  The artificial butter flavor that might’ve been palatable straight from the fridge will, when melted, fill your nose with the essence of hot paper.  And its consistency will be a bit like… well, this is a family show, so nevermind.

See, most margarines are made from emulsions of either corn oil or soybean oil, and some other ingredients with a half-life of about five million years, plus the added bonus of heavy food coloring.  Heated and melted margarine will behave and taste more like the oil it actually is; and its emulsifiers, things such as lecithin, will produce results that are sticky and will remain unincorporated with the rest of your recipe.  Have you ever seen, and worse yet smelled, a cookie made with margarine?  It’s simply impossible to produce great bakery with the stuff.  The best bakery uses butter, period.

In the final analysis, if you don’t lick the butter tray, at least not daily, you’ll be fine.  I swear.  But continue to eat margarine, and you will turn into some Pleistocene creature that sheds its oily shell every spring and fall.  Not sexy, that.  Not sexy at all.