Tag Archives: unbelievable

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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Great Customer Service: It Lives!

5 Jan

The most extraordinary thing happened to me today.  I was received great customer service.  As unbelievable as this sounds, it’s true.

I’m not sure if there’s one particular cause to what’s created this incredible lack of good, or even just adequate customer service.  When I go out shopping, one thing I’ve driven 10 miles out of the way for is literally the one, single thing missing from the shelf.  It could even be an item that should be on any store shelf within a half-mile, but if I need it, it simply will not be there.

I’ll give you an example: For some of my Xmas baking I needed peppermint patties stat.  I visited the three full-sized groceries near me, all within a half-mile of my home and I swear, surrounded by mountains of any other bagged, fun-sized and mass-produced candy you could ever want, there was an empty black chasm right where the peppermint patties were supposed to be.  In all three stores!

And what’s worse, there was no one anywhere to tell me, while looking anywhere but at me and in a diction that only another stoner can understand, that um, no, there are no more in the back, sorry.  Of course, if I had heard that, I would taken a pair of pliers to the clerk’s braces.

This is the sort of service I expected after an order of mine went pear-shaped at http://shop.nlzwear.com/.  Rumor has it that I may have entered the coupon code incorrectly or something, but I don’t know about that.  I find it hard to believe I could ever do anything wrong, ever.

In any case, I submitted the order only to see what would’ve been a monstrous charge on my card.  I immediately called and emailed, sounding no less like the very mean grandma who will not be turned away.  You know, the one with the expired coupons at the grocery store. Or anywhere.

For good measure, I even tweeted that I needed to be contacted, figuring that a nationwide shaming should do the trick.  What can I say?  I expected the worst.

Instead, Chris contacted me almost immediately and was very responsive despite my cold fish of a request.  He did not have to cancel my order—he would’ve been in his right, honestly, to profit from my ineptitude.  But he didn’t.  He kindly canceled my order so I could resubmit it properly, saving me, but costing him, 80 easy bucks.

So here’s to you, Chris at NLZWear!  I really appreciate that you helped me even though I was a complete cad.  I hope sincerely that you get rich beyond your wildest dreams selling those awesome socks.

&*(@$(*! 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.

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.

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.

Baking on the Cheap, Test No. 1

20 Sep

Here are some quick first impressions.  A more detailed report will follow.

1. House-brand cocoa is not terribly chocolatey.  The flavor of the batter would indicate that at 1-3/4 c. it cannot compete with 2-1/2 c. of sugar.  The question will be how to adjust for this.  Of course, this point may be moot once they’re done.

2. The house-brand flour I used appeared, felt and behaved like flour with a higher protein content than typical all-purpose flour.  That said, it’s not by much and to be honest, in a pinch, it’ll work better than I’d originally thought it would.

3. House-brand imitation vanilla?  Not as good as the Mexican versions available in more urban areas, but again, it’ll work in a pinch. I still maintain that in something like brownies, oatmeal cookies–less than delicate bakery–imitation vanilla will work even a bit better than pure extract every time.

4. House-brand instant coffee: Wow, I wouldn’t recommend using that stuff if you can help it.  The point here though is to make something great out of next to nothing, so I used 3 TBL to mimic the usual espresso paste.

5. They still smell fantastic!

Stay tuned.  I’ll report on the actual finished results tomorrow.  See you then!

Baking on the Cheap

19 Sep

I’ve got a new project.  Now that I’ve thoroughly tested my perfect brownie recipe, I want to find out if holds up under distressed conditions: House-brand cocoa; house-brand, bleached all-purpose flour ; and seriously cheap, house-brand instant coffee.  All I have left to buy is the generic–and yes, imitation–vanilla.  I’ll be using ingredients that are thought to be maybe a half-step better than that stuff that comes in no. 10 cans with a plain white label, which I’d use for this test if I could find it.

Now, I’m certain several tests will be necessary.  House-brand, bleached all-purpose flour has a protein content than can vary not only by the store, but even from batch to batch in the same store.  It will take some work, I suspect, to develop a general rule for baking with it.

Flavors will likely be an issue as well.  Like the flour, house-brand cocoas,vanillas, and instant coffees can vary in flavor and quality, and all within the same store.  It really just depends where the store sources its products from contract to contract. I plan to keep my methods constant, but I’ll develop all new proportions and adjustments with this variance in mind.

See, one of my goals here is to make baking as accessible as possible.  Not just the directions and the science, but the cost, too,  And while I already insist on using ingredients that are easy to find, it’s time to figure out how to bake great things with the ingredients that’ll make your typical food jag laugh at you behind your back.  Let’s show ’em that real skill and confidence–and taste–has nothing to do with name and price.

I can’t wait.