ahhhh! chocolate, to the rescue

I can feel the impending doom…
My MCATs are at 8am tomorrow.. eek!!

Fortunately, I have managed to find comfort and relief in chocolate, caramel, and hazelnut forms. My brother recently returned from San Francisco, where he visited Recchuiti per my request! Being the kind and chocolate-loving brother that he is, he brought back the Black box, a box of burnt caramel almonds, and a jar of Recchuiti burnt caramel sauce. YUM!! We are in the midst of devouring all these things, especially that burnt caramel sauce, which was served warm over rich, creamy Haagen Dazs vanilla ice-cream and topped with toasted crunchy almonds. And yes, it was wonderful.

PLUS, I made a cake for my brother (to be posted later!) and we’re also enjoying my jar of Fauchon’s coffee-hazelnut spreading cream I got when I was in Paris this spring.

Hmm, I guess it all seems slightly excessive now that I’m writing about it. I sorta feel like the often talked about little kid in the candy store…..except I’m a BIG kid, with a lot of expensive gourmet sweets. AND IT’S AWESOME!

In other news though, in efforts to NOT think about my MCATs and freak out unnecessarily, I really wanted to start volunteering and doing more things for the Obama campagin. After tomorrow, I won’t have to worry about studying anymore (well, until school starts……), so I’d love to start being more involved in the campaign efforts. So far, I’ve only gone around to try to register voters once, and I’m itching to get more involved… Does anybody have any good ideas or experiences with how to do this using baked goods?? I haven’t had enough experience with this, so I’m not really sure what is effective or what people are receptive to…but it’d be super cool (plus delicious) to incorporate baked goods into trying to get people to vote for Obama!

Anyway, hopefully I’ll post happy thoughts after my exam is done. Can’t wait…

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Published in: on August 14, 2008 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

double-peanut chocolate cookies

mmm, I’m currently enjoying these cookies:

Check them out here on BlakeBakes!

p.s., they’re especially great crumbled over reese’s pb ice-cream

Published in: on August 6, 2008 at 11:10 am  Comments (1)  

cappuccino chip fudge cookies

Using up some more of the things lying around my house… (as if this problem could ever be solved…) a bag of cappuccino chips! I couldn’t use them as the chips in chocolate chip cookies, since I would miss the chocolate too much. I COULD however, use them in dark chocolate cookies! I’ve made the brownie-like cookies with the shiny exterior, but for these chips I wanted a chewy cookie with some substance. And that’s where Tish Boyle’s white chocolate chunk fudge cookies came in.

I love the way the cookies look…one look and you can tell it is chewy heaven. Yum!
One reason I haven’t been baking or posting as much as I’d like to is because I’m in the midst of working and studying for MCATs, which I’m taking August 15th, whoo! I had my last MCAT class this past week, so I brought these in for everyone. Needless to say, they were gobbled up. ūüôā

Cappuccino Chip Fudge Cookies
Adapted from “The Good Cookie” by Tish Boyle
Makes about 36 cookies

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
11 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp unsulphured molasses
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup nonalkalized cocoa powder, sifted
12 oz (1 bag) of cappuccino chips (originally 9oz white chocolate, chopped)

1. Preheat oven to 350¬ļF. Melt chocolates together, stir until smooth, and set aside. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
2. Beat the butter on medium-high until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in sugars and continue to beat for 1 min. Beat in the molasses and vanilla, then the eggs one at a time. Beat in the cocoa powder, then add the melted chocolate and mix until blended.
3. Reduce the speed to low and blend in half of the flour mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Then, using a wooden spoon, fold in the remaining flour, then the cappuccino chips. Do not overmix.
4. Drop dough in walnut-sized mounds, 2 inches apart, onto baking sheets. Flatten the balls slightly, and bake for 11-13 minutes, until tops are puffed and cracked. Do not overbake, or cookies will be dry. Cool on baking sheets for 3-5 min, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Published in: on July 25, 2008 at 10:49 pm  Comments (5)  

peppermint cookies n’ cream brownies

 

I love brownies. ¬†I love Oreos. ¬†I love mint chocolate everything. ¬†So, after seeing Baking Bite’s post for Peppermint Cookies n’ Cream Brownies, I knew I had to make my own batch. And when Newman’s Own Organic Oreos were on sale at the newly opened Whole Foods near my home (yay!!!!), I grabbed a package of the “Hint of Mint” variety and it was a done deal. ¬†People were pretty impressed with my organic Oreos, by the way. ūüėČ

The recipe on Baking Bites uses 3 cups of sugar though for the brownies…and I didn’t want one that was so sweet, so I used Cook’s Illustrated recipe instead. ¬†I’m glad I did too.. they were already plenty sweet for me! I don’t know if I underbaked the brownies or they just need time to set up, but they were really gooey the day of being baked… so I put them in the fridge to set up and they were great after that.

I used the Baking Bites recommended 18 cookies and it was a match made in minty heaven!! The brownies had a great appearance (nice, crackly top), great texture (chewy and moist), and great taste (rich, and.. full of mint Oreos!). As Michael from The Office would say, it was a win-win-win! Everybody loved them, and made for a wonderful 4th of July treat. Although I don’t think you could go wrong any time (Organic) Mint Oreos are involved! ūüôā

Mint Oreo Brownies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated “The New Best Recipe”

Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it) the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy. If overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.

1¬ľ cups (5 ounces) cake flour
¬Ĺ teaspoon salt
¬ĺ teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1¬Ĺ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2¬ľ cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
18 Oreo cookies, chopped

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

3. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous. Mix in Oreo pieces.

4. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface.  Bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve.

Published in: on July 9, 2008 at 11:56 pm  Comments (3)  

Blake Bakes

I forgot to post about this earlier… but I am a contributor on BlakeBakes.com, brought to you by the wonderful Blake of BlakeMakes.com. ¬†It’s really a lot of fun, so I hope you enjoy my two posts so far, and everyone else’s too! ūüôā

Emily Bakes: Mexican Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Emily Bakes: Grand Marnier Tofu Cheesecake

Published in: on June 28, 2008 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

ny black and white cookies

This past weekend, I was reuniting with a great friend that I haven’t seen for almost a year. ¬†For such a grand and joyous occasion, I knew I couldn’t show up empty-handed! ¬†My mind churned and churned… what to make for such a special friend, whom I see so rarely?

Cookies and bars are basically my go-to gifts, as they can be easily made, easily packaged, and easily loved. ¬†But I try to do something to personalize what I make for each person…and in this case, I tried to tie in my friend’s past residence in NYC by making these Black and White Cookies from Carole Walter’s “Great Cookies” (which is a great cookie book, by the way!). ¬†I have come across these cookies enough times in cookie books to know that they are ubiquitous in NYC. ¬†Although I didn’t really know whether or not my friend had actually eaten or enjoyed these cookies, I took a gamble and hoped that its strong presence in the city meant she would be able to relate to these cookies somehow.

Fortunately for me, it turned out that these cookies did play a role in her past life in NY! ¬†Supposedly her 4th grade teacher would reward her class with Black and White Cookies according to how many books they read…so eventually she just ended up reading books for the cookies, and considers the cookies a part of her childhood. ¬†Success!

Having never tried an actual Black and White Cookie, I’m not sure how these would compare to the real thing… but they are cakey and soft, and I must agree with Carole Walter in her description, “When I first made them, I thought ‘Much ado about nothing!’ ¬†But I was wrong. I found myself cutting off little bites from this big cookie…a slice of chocolate here, a piece of vanilla there…until, before I knew it, the cookie was gone. ¬†There is something about this cookie that is so alluring. ¬†See for yourself!”

If you ever want to bake something for a friend who is no longer in NYC, try these out… even if it wasn’t necessarily their favorite cookie while living there, it’d probably bring back great memories for them!

 

(Technical notes: ¬†I made my cookies a bit smaller than Walter calls for, and made a mixture of her glaze with Martha Stewart’s glaze since Martha has you split the batch into two and whisk cocoa powder in, whereas Walter calls for using melted chocolates. ¬†My laziness got the best of me! ¬†But the chocolate glaze still tasted great, so no worries)
 

Black and White Cookies
Carole Walter’s “Great Cookies”
Makes 16-18 4-inch cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
1 3/4 cups strained cake flour, spooned in and leveled
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon oil
3/4 cup mlk

1. ¬†Preheat oven to 350¬ļF. ¬†Strain together 3 times the flours, baking powder, and salt. ¬†Set aside.
2.  Cream the butter in a mixer on medium speed until smooth and lightened in color.  Add the sugar in three additions and mix for about 2-3 minutes to thoroughly incorporate.  Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing 30 seconds after each addition.   Scrape down the bowl as needed, and mix in vanilla and lemon oil.
3.  Using a rubber spatula, blend in flour mixture, adding it alternately with the milk, four parts flour to three parts milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Do not overmix.
4.  Using a #16 ice cream scoop, drop six mounds of dough onto each cookie sheet, spacing them 3-4 inches apart.  Bake the cookies for 20-22 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove cookies from the oven and let rest on pan for 5 minutes before moving to cool on wire racks.  While cookies are cooling, make the glazes.
5.  Starting with vanilla glaze, use a small offset spatula to outline the dividing point in the center where the two flavors on each cookie will meet.  Fill in the remaining area with the vanilla glaze.  After vanilla glaze has set, apply chocolate glaze on unglazed half, again starting at the dividing point and applying it as smoothly as you can.  Let glaze set before storing cookies in an airtight container, layered between strips of wax paper, for up to 2 weeks. 
 

Vanilla and Chocolate Glazes
Martha Stewart’s “Cookies”

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp water, plus more if needed
1 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

Whisk confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and water in a small bowl until smooth. ¬†Add more water, if needed, to achieve a consistency slightly thicker than honey. ¬†Transfer half the icing to a small bowl and stir in the cocoa powder. ¬†Thin with water if needed.
 

Published in: on June 17, 2008 at 11:36 pm  Comments (6)  

pierre herme’s gateau reine de saba

When I finally got to visit Paris this year, I of course had to visit Pierre Herme’s shop, and go crazy inside! Besides trying various macarons, I definitely wanted to purchase a cookbook of his in the shop as a keepsake. That cookbook turned out to be his “Larousse du Chocolat.”

This book truly is incroyable! It has many categories- cookies, cakes, tarts, confections…and each is divided into “simple” and “for impressing.” Although my French is a little lacking, I figured I could just use an online translator for whatever I needed… and if not, well, looking through the much adored Herme’s recipes and pictures would be enough for me.

Fortunately, I was able to piece together instructions well enough, and made my first thing out of the book today: Gateau de Reine de Saba. This is a fairly simple cake, especially when it comes to Pierre Herme, but simplicity is sometimes just what you need. I paired it with fantastically sweet strawberries, and it was a wonderful way to end a summer meal.

There is a slight crispy crust on top that gives way to a moist interior, and thanks to the almond flour, has a firm, yet soft texture, all at the same time. The gateau is not too rich or sweet, with a strong chocolate flavor that really shines with the cocoa powder on top. I can’t wait to tackle more recipes from this book!

Gateau Reine de Saba
From Pierre Herme’s “Larousse du Chocolat”

125 grams 60% bittersweet chocolate
60 grams butter
3 eggs
125 grams powdered sugar
40 grams potato starch
75 grams almond flour
20 grams cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350¬ļF.
Melt the chocolate and the butter in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and mix well.
Separate the eggs, and in a stand mixer, whip the egg yolks and sugar for 3 minutes, until lightened in color.
Add the potato starch and almond flour.
Stir with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula and add the melted chocolate and butter.
Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt, and gently mix in to the chocolate mixture.
Pour the mixture into a buttered and floured 18 cm charlotte mold (I used a 9 inch springform pan, which is probably why mine came out so flat), and bake for 40 minutes (due to my much wider pan, I only baked for 30 and that was still a bit too much).
After taking it out of the oven, unmold the cake on a cooling rack and let it cool.
Sprinkle the cocoa powder on top when cool to serve.

Published in: on June 8, 2008 at 9:54 pm  Comments (5)  

coconut-pecan-date oatmeal cookies

Okay, I need to figure out how to come up with better names for these baked goods besides just listing off all the ingredients… the names get pretty long! But I feel like it would be quite sad to leave out any part of the cookie, because they are all fantastic and work together to make the cookie so great.

I have tried many oatmeal cookie recipes, each time ending in disappointment with the results. No matter how hard I tried, I seemed to only get dry and tough oatmeal pucks. They certainly did not meet the high standard of baked goods I have for sharing with others… but at the same time, I didn’t like them enough to keep for myself. Darn oatmeal cookies…

Except, for some reason, in the past few days, I had a HUGE craving for an extra moist, chewy, almost candy-like oatmeal cookie. I loved chocolate chip cookies made with melted butter, and wondered why I hadn’t found a recipe before that made oatmeal cookies with melted butter, since that’s usually what produced the extra chewy moist chocolate chip cookies I love.

But alas, Alice Medrich had already thought of it. In addition to using melted butter, she has you chill the dough overnight, saying the oats will absorb the moisture. This seemed like the perfect way to prevent dry oatmeal cookies! She is so clever, that woman! And lucky for me, shares the baking knowledge. I decided to use the coconut oil I had purchased without really knowing what I wanted to do with it, but felt like it would be a great change to the cinnamon-nutmeg flavorings for oatmeal cookies. Then, for good measure, I tossed in pecans, dates, and more coconut. Yum!

These were definitely EXACTLY what I was looking for… crispy and caramelized on the outside, but amazingly moist, and almost candy-like on the inside. It was everything Medrich described it to be. Not too sweet, and the coconut oil gives it a great flavor and aroma. (Best of all, no creaming…or even melting! Just measure the oil and pour it into a bowl)

My confidence in making oatmeal cookies has been restored. I hope you make these… I will certainly be turning to them over and over again!

Edit:¬† So, upon eating one of these cookies during breakfast… I realized that the caramelized character of these cookies¬†gives it a taste similar¬†to Samoas.¬† So, for a chocolatey experience, I would heartily recommend trying these without the dates and pecans, making them slightly smaller, and either dipping the bottom in semi-sweet chocolate or drizzling on top.

Coconut-Pecan-Date Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s “Cookies and Brownies”
Makes about 40 large cookies

“Melted butter is one key to the flavor and texture of these great cookies. Overnight chilling allows the oats to absorb the dough’s moisture. The cookies are baked directly on the pan, not on parchment paper; and at a low temperature, to produce great toasted oat flavor, caramelized crunchy brown edges, and flavorful chewy centers. Perfection!”

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats (although I used quick-cooking and they came out great still)
1 teaspoon baking soda
16 tbsp melted butter (or 1 cup unrefined virgin coconut oil)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar, lump free
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup toasted coconut (I used sweetened shredded)

1) Combine the flour, oats, and baking soda in a bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or a fork. Set aside.
2) In a large bowl, stir together the coconut oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the flour mixture just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Let the mixture and the pan cool. Add the mix-ins. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
3) Remove the dough from the refrigerator to soften. Preheat the oven to 325¬ļ F. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
4) Scoop about 2 level tablespoons of dough and place them 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet. If you want smaller cookies, use 1 tablespoon of dough. Bake for about 15 to 17 minutes for large cookies, 13-15 for smaller ones, or until the cookies are a deep golden brown. Rotate baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.
Remove from the oven and let cookies firm up on the pan for 1 to 2 minutes. Use a metal pancake turner to transfer them to rack to cool completely before storing or stacking. May be stored in a tightly sealed container for several days.

Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 1:49 am  Comments (11)  

browned butter blondies

I got so excited when my most recent cookbook order arrived… Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Chocolate Epiphany, and Martha Stewart’s Cookies. AHHH!!! I LOVE THEM ALLLL!!!! So, jumping right in, I found these in Martha Stewart’s Cookies (also available on her website) and thought the browned butter would be the perfect twist on already decadent bar cookies for my former orchestra teacher, who is a great friend of mine, perhaps because we share the same great appreciation of food. ūüôā

Despite the fact that you have to wait while the butter browns, for some reason, I’d much rather have that wait then the wait needed for butter to soften and cream. Who knows why, but I just really don’t like waiting for butter to soften and then having to cream it…so, any brownie or cookie recipe that says “melted butter,” and I’m all over it! (Plus, it usually results in an extra chewy or moist product anyway)

And success! He loved them! Or so he told me… hehe. I of course had to try them for myself, and although I do love the flavor, it was definitely too sweet for my tastes, so I would take out the 1/2 cup white sugar and maybe start reducing the brown sugar too. I changed the original recipe, as he is allergic to nuts, and I also had no toffee bits in my home… So, I switched to white chocolate chips and King Arthur espresso chunks. Perhaps that was why they were too sweet…no nuts to balance. Anyway, they were still much loved, so that is all that matters in the end.

Brown Butter Toffee Blondies
Martha Stewart

Published in: on May 31, 2008 at 12:13 am  Comments (8)  

breakfast items: croissants and granola

In the past week, I made my own croissants and granola for the first time! Yes, two items on opposite sides of the breakfast spectrum… but both delicious! One being sinfully saturated with butter, the other being virtuously nourishing. One taking two days to produce, the other but 15 minutes at the most to measure and mix. Either way, both were fun and exciting, and most of all, yummy yummy.

Actually, although I usually eat croissants for breakfast (as I guess most do…), it worked out that it was most convenient to serve them during dinner time for my family. So that night, our dinner consisted of croissant, steak, and vegetables………stir-fried in lard. Needless to say, our arteries were hurting a little after. But, oh, the fresh and warm croissants!!!!! I was so scared to make my own croissants, I must’ve watched the Baking with Julia PBS video online like 5 times for each segment.

I actually used the Tartine recipe, because it gave quantities for active dry yeast, whereas the Baking with Julia recipe calls for fresh yeast. The Tartine recipe also seemed like it would provide a better flavor (don’t ask me exactly why I thought this, because I obviously don’t know the methods for making the most flavorful croissants…). That and going back and forth between two sets of instructions might’ve been the cause for the severe issues I had by the last turn and shaping of the croissants when my dough started to tear and butter peaked out everywhere…but I tried to suffocate the butter with as much flour as I could, and prayed that it all turned out okay.

But, what do you know! Out of the oven came buttery and flakey pastries that my family loves so much, with that great fermented croissant flavor. Actually, my family usually just buys a humongous tray of them from Sam’s Club…but hooray for me, they pronounced them as better than Sam’s. ūüėÄ I still have half of the batch lying in my freezer, but I don’t know if I’ll make them again any time soon…but I did have to make them at least once!! Another summer baking project, checked off!

Now, onto the granola… it is Nigella Lawson’s “Andy’s Fairfield Granola” from Feast. (If you google, it will come up…sorry, too lazy to type it out right now) I wanted to make it as close to Nigella’s as possible, but alas, I wanted more to just make the granola and eat it. So, having no sunflower seeds, I tossed in some wheat germ instead, and instead of raisins, the last of my dried raspberries were used. I also used my new agave nectar in place of brown rice syrup. The applesauce gave it an amazing aroma while it was baking.. ahhh. All in all, twas a delicious granola, although it’s probably hard to screw up granola.

Published in: on May 26, 2008 at 9:43 pm  Comments (1)