Chocolate, Cookies

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies (revisited 5/2/2018)

I call myself the “futile” gourmet because cooking is something I am passionate about, but I’ve never had the option to study or work in the field professionally (outside of some high school experience and one tour of the CIA in New York). Also, I love to experiment and – quite frankly – those experiments can indeed be futile from time to time.

But sometimes, I like to revisit old recipes and improve them with new tricks I’ve learned. Now is one of those times…

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies (revisited 5/2/2018)
yield: 12- 16 cookies

  • 2 cups King Arthur bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 heaping tsp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated*
  • 3/4 cup butter, browned and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 8 oz chopped semisweet chocolate
  • Sea salt

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cornstarch, and nutmeg. Whisk together and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, molasses, and vanilla together on medium speed for 3 minutes to combine thoroughly. The mixture won’t exactly be creamy; it will be similar in texture to wet sand. Depending on how cool the butter is, the texture may vary.

With the mixer running on medium-low speed, add in the egg and egg yolk. Increase speed to medium and cream for 30 seconds to 1 minute until homogeneous and lighter in color.

With the mixer running on low, add in the dry ingredients a large spoonful at a time until all of the dry goods are incorporated. Add in the chopped chocolate all at once and mix to distribute. Transfer dough to a container or a piece of plastic wrap laid out on a cutting board, patting it into a rectangle. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Divide the dough into roughly 16 cookies that weigh between 50 – 60 grams each. If you don’t have a scale, eyeballing it is perfectly fine. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 325 for 15 – 18 minutes. The cookies should still be slightly puffy in the center and just beginning to brown at the edges.

Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

*Nutmeg in a chocolate chip cookie?!?! Okay it’s totally optional, but thanks to BraveTart by Stella Parks, I tried this addition as a way to “increase the butterscotch notes of the cookie batter,” and I have to agree that I am a fan! I’d recommend trying this in your own favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

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Chocolate, Cookies, White Chocolate

Gluten-Free Triple Chocolate Cookies

I love baking for restricted diets in part because of the challenge. With gluten-free bakes, the challenge always seems to be creating a chewy texture without the presence of gluten. And thanks to cocoa powder, melted butter, and dark brown sugar, I think I have accomplished that feat here!

One thing about my favorite cookie recipes: they require refrigeration. Even if you use a different recipe, try chilling the dough for a few hours out; I find it helps to produce more consistent cookies, plus there’s less pressure to go start to finish in a recipe because batching out and baking off cookies can take a while!

Gluten-Free Triple Chocolate Cookies

yield: 16-18 rather large cookies

  • 1 3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour*
  • 1/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp instant espresso, optional
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 4oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 4 oz semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped

In a medium bowl, combine the gluten-free all-purpose flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the melted butter and instant espresso, if using, whisking to dissolve the espresso. Add in the dark brown sugar and vanilla and mix until combined. Expect a wet sandy mixture to develop. Add in the eggs and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds which will help lighten and emulsify the mixture.

With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the flour until incorporated. Finally, add in the chopped chocolate all at once, mixing to distribute. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and foil and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Break apart the dough and roll into balls; the recipe should make about 16 -18 rather large cookies. Bake the cookies 6 to a sheet for 18-20 minutes until they’ve flattened but they still appear puffy all around.

*In terms of gluten-free all-purpose flour blends for this recipe, I’ve had excellent luck with both Bob’s Red Mill as well as Krusteaz brands.

 

Bread, Chocolate, Orange

Chocolate and Orange Bread

I’m a fan of bread. I tend to make one loaf a week, usually using my no-knead recipe or my sourdough no-knead recipe (as I also have sourdough in my fridge). But sometimes I want to break out and try something brand new, and sometimes that experiment doesn’t work out that well. The flavors of this loaf are amazing, but I definitely messed up the braiding. I plan to come back to this recipe in the future.

For now though, I was inspired, as I often am, by the Great British Bake Off, and I decided to adapt Paul Hollywood’s Chocolate Cherry Loaf into a Chocolate and Orange braided bread.

Start to finish, this recipe takes about 3 1/2 to 4 hours to complete, but the majority of that time is for proving and baking.

A note on rising: when in doubt, rely more on how much the dough has grown rather than the recommended proving time in bread recipes. Ambient temperature affects proving time, and colder kitchens like mine usually require the maximum amount of time and then some to “double in size.” 

Chocolate and Orange Bread

  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp rapid rise yeast
  • 1 3/4 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • the zest and juice of two oranges
  • 1 1/3 cups water*
  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil

*After removing the zest of a medium sized orange, juice it and add water to measure 1 1/3 cups total. Alternatively, just use 1 1/3 cups water.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, salt, brown sugar, yeast, and chocolate chips.

In another bowl, combine the zest, juice, water, and olive oil together.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, gradually add the liquid. Because you’re using a dough hook, it won’t fully incorporate, so use a spatula or your hands to periodically help the dough become a cohesive mass. Knead in the mixer on medium-low speed for 4-5 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple turns just until it comes together as a smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky ball. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover in plastic, and let it rest for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

         

Split the dough into 3 pieces of equal weight and shape into a 3-strand plait. I used this tutorial by The Bread Kitchen to help me through this process. The resulting loaf is fairly short, and you may lose a few shards of chocolate along the way. Cover the braid and let it rise an additional hour.

I completely messed up the two-strand plait here, so don’t trust me with braiding instructions, ha!

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and prepare an egg wash by beating an egg with about half a tablespoon of water. Brush the egg wash over the bread, making sure to coat the braids and down the sides.

Bake the bread for 25 minutes at 400F, reduce the heat to 375F and bake for an addition 20 minutes. The loaf should be golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

Brownie, Chocolate, Traybake

The Darkest Chocolate Brownie

“I favor the darkest chocolate brownie I can find,” said a colleague of mine when I asked her preferred baked good.

Challenge accepted.

The Darkest Chocolate Brownie

  • 6oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped and divided
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso
  • 1/4 cup cocoa*
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 1  tsp salt

Melt 4oz of the chocolate and place the remaining 2oz in a small bowl. Set both aside.

In a pan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the cocoa and espresso powder, heating until fragrant, about a minute more.

Remove from heat and whisk in the sugar and 4oz of melted chocolate. Let cool for 15 minutes. While it’s cooling, prepare an 8×8 pan by lining it with parchment. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 for dark pans).

Whisk the eggs into the cooled butter mixture until combined and homogeneous. Fold in the flour and salt. Finally, fold in the finely chopped chocolate.

Pour into prepared pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes until set at the edges and just barely set in the middle. Let the brownies cool in the pan. Refrigerating the brownies after they have cooled completely makes slicing easy.

For a double recipe, suitable for a 13×9 pan, I extended the bake time to 25-30 minutes, but otherwise, all of the ingredients doubled beautifully.

*I used Hershey’s Special Dark which – after a little research – I discovered, is just a Dutch process cocoa powder. Other changes that make this recipe especially dark compared with other brownie recipes:

  • Many recipes I found online use anywhere from 1 1/4 cups to 1 1/2 cups sugar for an 8×8 pan. Recipes that used only a cup tended to contain something like additional semi-sweet chocolate or chocolate chips. Less sugar makes for a deeper, bitter chocolate flavor.
  • Espresso powder shouldn’t be a surprise to most bakers as coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate.
  • I omitted vanilla that’s typically found in every baked good recipe: if it’s not intended to taste vanilla, I tend to not use vanilla extract.
  • Bread flour, dark brown sugar, and melted butter are standard in all of my baked goods where I want a chewy texture.

Chocolate, Cupcakes, Fruit, Orange

A Classic Flavor Combination: Chocolate and Orange

After a brief hiatus, I figured I’d dive back into my favorite treat: cupcakes. Now, I typically don’t like chocolate and fruit mixed together. Chocolate-covered strawberries? Give them to someone else.

But chocolate and orange? Now that’s a match made in heaven. These cupcakes are super easy to make too: just mix the dry goods together; mix the wet ingredients; mix dry and wet; fold in the chocolate chips. I love recipes like this.

Chocolate and Orange Cupcakes

yield: 24 cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • zest of one orange
  • 2 six-ounce containers vanilla yogurt (not greek)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips, plus more for decorating

Toss 1 tbsp flour with miniature chocolate chips to coat. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift the remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, zest, yogurt, and sugar to combine. Add in the eggs and whisk until homogeneous.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix until it comes together; a few lumps are okay, but it should not be overly lumpy. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake in an oven preheated to 325 degrees for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting with orange buttercream and topping with chocolate chips.

Orange Buttercream

yield: about 4 cups; enough to frost 24 cupcakes

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • the zest of one orange
  • 3-4 tbsp orange juice

Cream the butter and 2 cups of the confectioner’s sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes on medium speed in a stand mixer.

Add in 3 tbsp of orange juice and 1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Cream until smooth. Adjust frosting according to stiffness and taste with the remaining orange juice and sugar.

Chocolate, Cupcakes, Orange

A Nip and a Chocolate Chip

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I love chocolate and orange. Inspired in part by Probably This’ Chocolate Chip Grand Marnier Cake, this is a light, gluten-free chocolate chip and orange cupcake. They are topped with a lighter version of my vanilla buttercream frosting – where I use whole milk in lieu of cream – and a dark chocolate and Grand Marnier ganache.

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Chocolate Chip Orange Cupcake yield: 24 cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (I’m using Krusteaz Blend, but your favorite blend, or all-purpose flour would work just fine)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 six-ounce container vanilla yogurt (not greek)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • zest from two oranges
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup miniature chocolate chips + 1 tbsp gluten-free flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In another large bowl, combine the yogurt, butter, sugar, zest, and vanilla. Mix in the eggs, one at a time just until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until it comes together. Toss the chocolate chips in 1 tbsp of flour and fold them in.

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Using a 1/4 cup measure – or two large spoons, as I’ve recently found helpful – fill each cupcake liner and bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (though some melted chocolate may be attached).

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Let them cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

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Lighter Vanilla Buttercream Frosting yield: enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes

  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted to remove lumps
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 4-5 tbsp whole milk

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter for at least 3 minutes on medium-high speed, until nearly white in color. Add in 2 cups of the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, mixing on low to incorporate. Increase speed and mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes longer. Add the remaining 1 1/2 – 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the sugar.

Frost the cupcakes and refrigerate them prior to topping them with the chocolate ganache (it helps the ganache cool more quickly)

Dark Chocolate Grand Marnier Ganache yield: more than enough to decorate 12 cupcakes

  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp Grand Marnier orange liqueur
  • 1 tbsp butter

Chop the chocolate and place in a bowl. Heat the cream until at a simmer. Pour over the chocolate and let it sit for 1 minute. Add in the Grand Marnier and butter, stirring until smooth and glossy. Drizzle over the cupcakes.

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Chocolate, Fruit, Pastry, Peanut Butter, Vanilla

A Trio of Tarts

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Pastry.

I’m not sure any word sounds more appetizing to me than pastry. It could refer to a mouth-watering, cream-filled long-john or a delicate French eclair, a creamy filling or a flaky pie crust.

Today though is all about pastry crust, and a trio of pastries made from the same crust. The crust is a gluten-free almond flour, flavored lightly with vanilla. Almond flour makes for a crisp, cookie-like crust that isn’t too sweet.

As an added bonus, I’m using the same pastry cream recipe with a slight adjustment to make three different versions. The key is how a pastry cream is finished with butter. Adjust the finishing fat, and you can adjust the flavor: bittersweet chocolate makes a delicious chocolate pastry cream or a dab of peanut butter will please pb fans in a pinch.

Almond-Flour Crust*

yield: enough for six 3-inch tarts

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • a good bold pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted

In a large bowl, stir the almond flour, sugar, and salt together. Pour over the melted butter and vanilla, and stir to make a moist dough. Press the dough into prepared tart pans. Prick over the bottom with a fork. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden brown all over.

Cool the tarts completely before removing from their pans and before filling them.

*As written, this recipe makes enough for one 9-inch pastry. I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 times to make four 4-inch mini-pastries out of it.

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Vanilla Pastry Cream 

yield: about 2 1/2 cups of pastry cream

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • pinch salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp butter*

Set a sieve over a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and salt. Place over medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, and cornstarch. Whisk until pale yellow and slightly thickened.

Once the half-and-half mixture begins to bubble on the sides, temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly pouring the hot liquid into the egg yolks while constantly whisking. This will ensure the eggs don’t cook too quickly. Once all of the liquid has been added to the yolks, transfer the pastry cream back to the saucepan.

Turn the burner off and place the saucepan over the burner, whisking until thickened. This won’t take long, perhaps 30 – 60 seconds.

Pour the pastry cream through the sieve into the medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the butter, and let it cool, whisking occasionally, before covering with plastic wrap. Place the plastic directly on the surface of the pastry cream, and refrigerate until ready to use. This can be made at least a day in advance.

*The key to this filling’s versatility is the fat. In place of butter, use peanut butter. Or dark chocolate. Or coconut fat from a can of coconut milk. There are many flavors you can try, and you may have to make slight adjustments here and there. For example, a little extra cream will help loosen up a peanut butter pastry cream as it can get a bit thick.

Here are a couple options:

Peanut butter pastry cream with nuts – a thin layer of peanut butter on the bottom of a cooled crust, peanut butter pastry cream, and chopped honey-roasted peanuts.

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Chocolate pastry cream with dark-chocolate-coated cacao nibs:

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Or you could always go with…

The classic – vanilla pastry cream topped with fresh fruit and an apricot glaze.

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