Posts tagged chocolate

florentines

Until recently, I had never had a Florentine, those thin, crispy almond-and-orange cookies.  I had seen them in the odd cookie book or collection, but for some reason they had never interested me enough to make.  In the end, for this particular recipe iteration, I’m not totally sure it was worth the time.  Oh, I can certainly see where it would be – they tasted great, after all.  Still, the amount of time needed to turn out what ended up being a very fragile and uneven product, well, it makes me think that I might need to rethink the recipe is all.

The issue is that the dough was very crumbly and hard to roll, and although that problem was fixable – warming the dough in my palms before making balls – it was time-consuming.  Also, the cookies spread far more than I was expecting, so far in fact that they had numerous holes in their surface, and I think, this can’t be right.  So, I’m thinking perhaps the fact that I didn’t pulverize my almonds enough was probably the culprit.  Also, several recipes called for corn syrup, and I used golden syrup, because I like the taste better.

florentines (makes about 30 4-inch sandwich cookies)

Note: When my oven was at 350, my edges got far too brown, nearly burning before the center was cooked past the point of being chewy.  So I eventually had to turn my oven down to 200 in order to get the edges and the middle to cook even close to evenly.  Again, not sure if this is a problem with my dough, so, if you’ve pulverized the almonds thoroughly enough, start off at 350 with your first batch, and keep turning down the oven accordingly, if needed.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. blanched almonds, ground finely
  • 1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. flour
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. each heavy cream + golden syrup
  • 1 stick + 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. chocolate (your choice of milk/semisweet/bittersweet)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together almonds, flour, orange zest, and salt.
  3. In a saucepan, bring sugar, cream, golden syrup, and butter up to a boil.  Stir frequently and cook until the sugar has been dissolved.  Leave on the stove another minute, then remove to stir in vanilla.  Add to almond mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Let stand until cool enough to handle.
  5. Scoop teaspoon-sized amounts of dough and roll them into balls.  Place them about 4 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  6. Bake about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 5 minutes, and watching carefully for doneness.  They should be an even golden brown – too light in the middle, and they will be chewy and sticky rather than crispy.
  7. Cool on the baking sheet until you can safely move them to cooling racks, about 3-5 minutes.
  8. When all the cookies are out of the oven and cooling, chop your chocolate and melt it over gentle heat on the stovetop, or in the microwave in 30-second bursts.  Stir while letting it cool briefly, then spread over the bottom sides of half of the cookies.  Top with the remaining half to make thin cookie sandwiches.
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chocolate macaron with two fillings

When I first began learning how to seriously cook, the place I started that set me off on the road to culinary exploration, was what you might call standard, traditional American cooking, perhaps with a Southern bent.  Macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, casseroles, biscuits, mashed potatoes, baconated green beans, etc.  I soon branched out into both nouvelle-American and vintage-style-nouvelle-American cuisine, thanks both to the cookbooks I had begun to accumulate (I have a particular interest in vintage ones) and to the Food Network, which I had begun to watch with some enthusiasm.

Around that same time, I started working at a place that offered Italian cooking classes, presided over by genuine Italian chefs, and I developed more than a passing interest in international cuisine.  Shortly thereafter, I started to explore the development of cuisine in other countries: Ancient Egypt, the American South.  Interested by the stereotype of British cuisine being dull, and yet finding that it was largely responsible for inspiring the traditional foods of America, I found myself sort of charmed by British traditions.  Being partially of Scots-Irish descent encouraged me to think of it as sort of discovering my roots.

This phase lasted for a few years, even after I had picked up my first Julia Child cookbook and had become enthralled by the simplicity of French traditional cooking.  In recent months, perusing blogs by those living in France and acquiring Julia Child’s first volume of French cookery, I have found myself developing into a full-blown Francophile.  I suppose I’m coming late to the scene of French obsession, and a very late comer to the world of the macaron, which has taken the culinary landscape quite by storm this last year or so.

I’d never actually had a Parisian macaron before attempting these myself, so I didn’t know what they were supposed to be like, but I quite enjoyed them.  I looked at a multitude of recipes before coming to the version I ultimately created.  Because it’s a fairly fussy recipe, I opted to give out weights rather than measures for most of the ingredients.  Also note, because I folded in the cocoa powder after the batter was complete, and I believe I over-folded, next time I would probably choose to sift the cocoa powder in with the powdered sugar.

chocolate macaron with two fillings (makes 40-80 depending on size)

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg whites
  • 100 g granulated sugar
  • 400 g powdered sugar
  • 220 g ground almonds
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Place the egg whites in a microwavable bowl, and microwave 30 seconds on medium power.  This will dry them out slightly, so there is no danger of excess moisture in the macaron recipe.  Or, you could leave your egg whites out around 48 hours to age them sufficiently.
  2. Pulse powdered sugar, ground almonds, and cocoa powder in a good processor to combine.
  3. In a stand mixer, whip the egg whites until foamy.  Then, gradually add granulated sugar until stiff peaks form, about 3-4 minutes on medium-high speed.
  4. Add powdered sugar mix to meringue and fold relatively quickly until dry ingredients are combined.  Batter is done when it ribbons down from your spatula and combines smoothly with the batter in the bowl.
  5. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a pastry bag with a 1/4-inch tip, pipe small circles of batter, about 1 inch in diameter, onto the parchment.  Space about 1 inch apart.
  6. Preheat the oven to 300.  Let the macaron sit out at room temperature anywhere from 30-60 minutes.  Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the top of the macaron slides just slightly on its base when you press them gently with your finger.  Let cool completely.  Fill as desired.

 

orange chocolate filling

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. bittersweet fudge sauce
  • several drops orange extract or 1/2 tsp. orange zest

Directions:

  1. Microwave fudge sauce briefly until pourable (the kind we bought is basically solid at fridge temp).
  2. Stir in the orange extract, and let cool until it thickens somewhat.

 

salted caramel filling

This makes WAY more than you need for filling macarons.  Luckily it can be used on lots of other tasty things: apple pie, ice cream, spoons…

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature (lower-moisture European style is best)
  • large pinch of fleur de sel (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1 1/4 c. heavy cream, room tempature

Directions:

  1. Place sugar in a medium-large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir as it melts, and let cook to a dark golden brown color.  It should be fragrant, but not beginning to burn.
  2. Add butter (and salt, if using), and stir in until incorporated.  I threw in butter straight from the fridge, and it is possible that the temperature shock caused mine to seize at this point.  This is why I recommend warmer butter.  If yours seizes, though, do not panic.  Turn the heat down to low, and continue whisking until the butter has been re-incorporated.  This took me perhaps 5-10 minutes before I had a smooth mixture again.  Another possible solution is adding a few tablespoons of hot water, allowing it to bubble a little, and whisk it until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Add the heavy cream, and whisk until smooth.  It is too thin to use as filling right away, so let cool to room temperature before you use it for filling macarons.

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chocolate-orange bread pudding with sticky cherries

I was really excited to try this chocolate-orange bread recipe I found here, but when I pulled it out of the oven I found that it wasn’t what I had hoped for.  I doubled the recipe, and am notorious for forgetting to double all of the ingredients in a recipe, so I may try this again at some point in a single loaf form.  Still, the loaf tasted very little like chocolate, and even less like orange, so I admit to some disappointment.

Having almost two entire loaves of the stuff sitting around with no discernible purpose, and having just bought the most delicious liquid on the planet (dark chocolate almond milk – yum!), I opted to try out a bread pudding, something I haven’t been too enthused about in the past.  It was well worth the experiment, though it was pretty thick and maybe not as puddingy as a traditional bread pudding?  Not sure, as it’s not really my thing.

I topped it off with a few of the sticky cherries – really, almost candied – I had made last week, and I highly recommend.

Chocolate-Orange Bread Pudding (makes 1 9-inch square pan)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2-3/4 standard 9″x4″-size loaf of bread, cut into 1″ cubes – a light, eggy bread is the usual, but heavier breads can be used for a denser pudding; also, I used 3/4 of a loaf, but it was very crumbly, so it may have yielded only about a 1/2 loaf
  • 1/3 c. currants
  • 5 eggs (up to 3 may be egg white only)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. orange extract
  • 2 1/4 c. chocolate almond milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Spread bread cubes out on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until bread has dried out a little bit.  Place in a 9-inch square pan; the cubes should mostly fill the pan.  Sprinkle currants over the bread cubes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, cinnamon, orange extract, and almond milk until smooth.  Pour over bread cubes.  Press bread down with the back of a spoon.  If cubes are not totally covered by milk, you can add a little more.
  3. Let rest at least 15 minutes, and as long as overnight, occasionally pressing down with a spoon.
  4. Bake 30-40 minutes until firm and slightly puffed.  Cool 15 minutes before serving.  Serve with custard sauce or slightly thickened whipping cream if you like.

 

Sticky Cherries (makes about 1 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag sweet red cherries
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 3/4 c. vanilla sugar

Directions:

  1. Pit the cherries.  One easy way I recently learned about was to use a metal star tip for a frosting bag.  Insert into the cherry where the stem is until it contacts the pit.  Twist the star tip around to dislodge the cherry pit, and then pull out.  The cherry put should be detached and can be discarded.
  2. Place the cherries in a saucepan with the water and sugar.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until liquid has turned very syrupy.
  3. Refrigerate until ready to use.  Syrup should become very thick.

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Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cream Pie

Thick, delicious, sweet, chocolate pudding, tucked into a pie crust, beneath billows of softly whipped cream.  Who among us wouldn’t love this?  Oh, sure, I guess there are some people out there who don’t like chocolate, but everyone else would be on board, I think.  I was following a recipe out of an old cookbook I had, but decided there wasn’t enough chocolate in it.  Sadly, I only had semisweet, rather than bittersweet, chocolate chips, but it turned out quite lovely after all.

If you like your chocolate pies rather sweet, go ahead and cook this recipe as written.  If you like your pies a little less sweet, either reduce the sugar by half, or use bittersweet chocolate for all of the chocolate chips.  Either way, don’t use too much sugar in the whipped cream – lightly sweetened is the way to go, I promise.  Also, I didn’t put any sugar at all into the pie crust, and again, found it to be quite nice this way.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cream Pie (makes 1 9″ pie)

Ingredients:

For Pie Crust:

  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into slices
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3-4 tbsp. ice water

For Filling:

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 2/3 c. chocolate chips
  • 2 c. milk
  • 3 beaten egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2-1 c. whipping cream, lightly sweetened and whipped to stiff peaks

Directions:

For Pie Crust:

  1. Place flour and salt into a food processor and pulse several times to combine.  Scatter butter slices over the surface of the flour, and pulse ten times, for one second each, until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cold water over surface, and pulse several more times.  When some of the mixture is pressed between your fingers, it should hold together without crumbling.  If it crumbles, add the other tablespoon of water and pulse several more times.
  3. Dump mixture out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press together into a flat disk about six inches across.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350.
  5. Remove dough and rest about twenty minutes to let it come to room temperature.  Roll out to a circle about 12 or so inches across.  My preferred way to transfer a crust to a pie dish is to roll it around the rolling pin, then unroll it over the top of the pie dish.  You could also fold it into quarters, or place the pie dish upside-down over the dough circle, and then flip right-side-up.  Adjust dough in the pan, and fold edges under to create a even edge.  Pinch to create a decorative edge, if you like.
  6. Prick pie crust all over with a fork, and then fill with pie weights, if desired.  Bake 20-40 minutes, or until golden brown all over.  Let cool to room temperature before filling.

For Pie Filling:

  1. Place first 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens (this may be before or after it boils).  Cook two minutes longer, whisking constantly.  Remove from heat.
  2. Pour a small amount (1-2 tbsp.) into egg yolks, and whisk to combine thoroughly.  Pour yolk mixture back into the saucepan, and return to heat.  Cook for two minutes, whisking constantly.
  3. Remove from heat.  Add butter and vanilla, whisking to combine.  Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing down onto the surface of the pudding to prevent its forming a skin (unless you like that kind of thing, in which case go ahead and eat it off the top before pouring the filling into the pie).  Cool to room temperature.

For the Pie:

  1. Pour filling into the pie shell and smooth the top.  If you’d like to serve the pie chilled, place the pie into the refrigerator for an hour or two or until cold.
  2. Top with whipped cream and serve.

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Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Okay, I admit, I accidentally doubled the butter in a recipe I was following, leaving you with the below.  However, since the dough was very dense, I’m not quite sure I see how it would work out with less butter.  The taste of these was very, very chocolaty and delicious, but they crumble like you wouldn’t believe.  Planning on trying this recipe again and seeing whether I can get the dense flavor but with a chewier cookie as originally planned.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. kamut flour
  • 3/4 c. teff flour
  • 1 tsp. wheat gluten (optional; if using, place in measuring cup before measuring out kamut flour)
  • 3/4 c. dutch-process cocoa flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • scant 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. agave syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. white sugar
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl.
  3. Beat butter with sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in agave syrup and egg.  Fold in dry ingredients and chocolate chips.
  4. Drop by tablespoon onto the baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, or until done.

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Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some days, you just want to bake cookies.  It doesn’t matter that the thermostat reads 80 because the afternoon sunshine has been streaming in through your windows for the past three hours.

This batter is, bar none, the most delicious batter I have ever tasted, the kind I sneak spoonfuls of when I go in to rotate my sheet pans.  It is so delicious, that I am at this very moment considering making a batch with egg white substitute (or just risk it, because after all the yolks add both texture and flavor) so that I can make cookie dough ice cream.  Say, does freezing kill salmonella?

This is the batter I’ve been using since last summer, when I decided that my previous best-batter-ever was faulty because it had instant pudding on the list of ingredients, and who knows what they put in there?  It was a foggy, drizzly, summer in the city and we were either just getting over or hadn’t yet experienced the horror of that summer’s early flu-bug, and dang it, I wanted some cookies.

Since then, I’ve decided I need to cook with more whole grains (other than wheat!) and alternative sweeteners.  That said, I haven’t yet experimented much with this recipe.  It’s so perfect, I’m afraid to mess with it, but after this batch, I think I’ll just force myself.  It’s so close to ideal that I couldn’t pass up making it even healthier.

Basic Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes about 2 dozen)

Okay, I admit it, I DID experiment with this recipe a little.  The batch I made today, I made with 1 cup spelt flour (an ancient wheat), 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup rolled oats, and used half chocolate chips, half raisins.

One additional note on texture.  If your kitchen is warm like mine was, and the dough is very soft, the cookies will spread a lot and be a little crispier and chewier.  I like my cookies soft and tender, and if you do, too, you’ll want to refrigerate your dough, about 15-20 minutes before you bake it.  Your dough balls should hold their shape on the baking sheet.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 c. chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325.  Lightly grease baking sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients.
  3. In another medium bowl, mix butter and sugars until smooth.  Add vanilla and eggs and beat until light and creamy.
  4. Add dry ingredients and mix until almost completely combined.  Some of the dry ingredients should be visible on the top of the batter.
  5. Gently fold in chocolate chips until evenly distributed and no more dry ingredients remain visible.
  6. Drop by 2 tbsp. on cookie sheets, leaving at least 2 inches of space between.  Bake 12-15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, or until golden brown and lightly crisped at the edges.
  7. Let cool several minutes on baking sheets before moving to racks to cool.

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