Tag Archives: equipment

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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.