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Chocolate

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You may think a chocolate chip cookie cannot be improved upon, but what if I told you it could just have a little bit of pizzazz by adding tahini paste? Tahini is sesame ground up, until it reaches a creamy consistency. It adds a bit of nuttiness and savoriness to your standard chocolate chip cookie without a distinct sesame taste.

This recipe should be followed as-is with no substitutions and changes – even the size of the cookie and the timing has been perfectly calibrated to give the cookie a soft, chewy interior. Beware if you use silicone baking mats like I do – your cookies won’t get to a golden brown but they will be done after the designated amount of time.

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Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
From the NYTimes
Makes 12-18 3-inch cookies

4 ounces/113 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup/120 milliliters tahini, well stirred
1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/150 grams all-purpose flour, or matzo cake meal (See tip)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¾ cups/230 grams chocolate chips or chunks, bittersweet or semisweet
Flaky salt, like fleur de sel or Maldon

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, tahini and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla and continue mixing at medium speed for another 5 minutes.

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and kosher salt into a large bowl and mix with a fork. Add flour mixture to butter mixture at low speed until just combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in chocolate chips. Dough will be soft, not stiff. Refrigerate at least 12 hours; this ensures tender cookies.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking mat. Use a large ice cream scoop or spoon to form dough into 12 to 18 balls.

Place the cookies on the baking sheet at least 3 inches apart to allow them to spread. Bake 13 to 16 minutes until just golden brown around the edges but still pale in the middle to make thick, soft cookies. As cookies come out of the oven, sprinkle sparsely with salt. Let cool at least 20 minutes on a rack.

It’s been so long since I last updated my baking blog! But this comeback recipe would be well worth your time – it is a homemade version of my most favorite cookie ever (and I don’t use superlatives lightly) – the Tim Tam!

 

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Tim Tams are chocolate overloads in a little package. You have a chocolate biscuit sandwich with a malty chocolate buttercream filling, which is then dipped into creamy chocolate. Chocolate3! My next favorite cookie are probably Loackers and I enjoy it for the same reason I do Tim Tams – that textural contrast, mmm. Note that Tim Tams and Loackers are from Australia and Italy respectively. America, can you please step up your cookie game?! Happy to take any recommendations.

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Here’s a close-up cross-section of the cookie. I think what really elevates the cookie is the malted chocolate filling. I don’t even know how to describe the taste of malt. I just spent five minutes Googling it and it looks like the Internet doesn’t know either. To me, it tastes like nostalgia and afternoon snacks composed of Milo drinks and Hup Seng cream crackers.

Anyway, Whoppers (or Maltesers, for my Commonwealth folk) have a malt interior.

Now that I have expounded upon my love for this cookie, let me nerd out about the recipe I tried. The cookie made surely wasn’t perfect, but I’ve analyzed what exactly to watch out for to ensure utmost approximation to the original cookie.

  • I tried both a dark chocolate and a milk chocolate coating. I used Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Dark Chocolate for the other half batch and I would recommend using more coconut oil than recommended to compensate for the lower fat content in the dark chocolate. The coating on the dark chocolate Tim Tams were more of a crisp shell than a creamy coating, which is not ideal.
  • Use good quality  chocolate to better approximate the high quality chocolate that Commonwealth countries get, i.e. not that sour chalky Hershey crap. I used American-produced Cadbury milk chocolate and that tasted decent.
  • Try as much as possible to roll the cookies to a 1/4 inch. It’ll also help with ensuring cookie crispness. You want that nice contrast between crunchy cookie and creamy chocolate.
  • Dip the cookie sandwiches sparingly into the melted chocolate. Otherwise, the chocolate coating ratio goes all awry.

Enough talk, on to the recipe! I made very minor edits to the source.

Homemade Tim Tams
Adapted from Elizabeth LaBau, originally from The Sugar Hit Cookbook
Serves: 14 Tim Tams
Ingredients
For the Cookies:
  • 4 oz (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup, or 115 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 oz (1/3 cup, or 30 g) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 5½ oz (1 cup, or 150 g) all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
For the Filling:
  • 4 oz (115 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz (1 cup, or 115 g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp malted drink powder (like Ovaltine or Horlicks)
For the Coating:
  • 10 oz (280 g) milk or dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (if using dark chocolate, use 1.5 tbsp)
Instructions
To Make the Cookies:
  1. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and cream until pale and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl, and add the egg and continue beating until the egg is incorporate and the mixture lightens in color. Add the cocoa powder and beat until there are no lumps. Finally, fold through the flour and salt until it is all incorporated. The dough will be very soft.
  2. Scrape the dough out onto a piece of parchment paper. Add a second sheet of paper on top, and roll out the dough between the two sheets until it is a rectangle about ¼-inch thick. Place the dough on a tray and freeze it for 30 minutes, or refrigerate it for 1-2 hours, until firm.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  4. Cut the chilled dough into 28 small 1¼ in x 2½ in rectangles. Place them in evenly spaced intervals on the baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheet.
To Make the Filling:
  1. Cream the butter until soft, then sift in the remaining ingredients and beat until light and fluffy. Spread a heaping teaspoon of filling on half of the cookies, or transfer the frosting to a piping bag and pipe an even layer of filling on half of the cookies. Top with the remaining cookies, then put in the refrigerator to chill while you make the coating.
To Assemble:
  1. For the coating, place the chocolate and coconut oil in a heat-proof bowl and melt them together in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring after every 30 seconds to prevent overheating. Once the chocolate is mostly melted, remove and stir gently until smooth.
  2. Using a fork or dipping tools, dip a chilled cookie in the melted chocolate and place it back on the baking sheet. If you want to create a wavy pattern on top of the cookies, lightly press the tines of the fork or dipping tool to the top while the chocolate is still wet. Repeat until all of the cookies are dipped. Chill in the refrigerator, then devour!

IMG_4283This brownie recipe is the strongest I’ve seen in a while, and will likely go in the hall of fame for being a delicious combination of flavors and textures that are irresistible to me. When I was making the recipe, I was at first a little suspicious. Why is there more chocolate than there is butter? There’s just as much sugar as butter! And one whole TABLESPOON of vanilla? That’s crazy!

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But I persevered and made the recipe as it is and I did not regret it. Firstly, the smell of this is intoxicating. It has the woodsy fragrance of bourbon and vanilla, without an alcoholic bite. It also smells a little comforting like a cup of coffee, even though there’s no coffee in it and I don’t even drink coffee. (But I can appreciate the scent memory it holds for most people.) Be sure not to overbake the brownie, but you don’t have to worry about the brownie not holding together because when the chopped chocolate solidifies, it’ll hold everything together. It’s less a cakey brownie than a chewy, dense one with crunch from the chopped chocolate and, so keep that in mind depending on what you’re looking to make. The sprinkling of fleur de sel on the brownies isn’t necessary, but it does heighten the sweet, earthy, caramelly and woody flavor profile.

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Melty chocolate when warmed up, crunchy chocolate bits when cooled

 

Since the ingredients in this recipe are so simple, I highly recommend using good quality vanilla extract and chocolate. I used Trader Joe’s bourbon vanilla, and their Pound Plus Semi-Sweet Chocolate. You do NOT want to use chocolate chips in this once, since it’ll throw off the texture. Take the effort to chop the chocolate, and you’ll be rewarded with craggy, crunchy chocolate bits with a chocolate-flavored batter.

Sweet and Salty Chocolate Bourbon Brownies
From The Vanilla Bean Blog
Makes one 9×9 pan

1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla (use genuine vanilla extract, since this is quite a lot of it)
2 tablespoons bourbon
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or coarse salt [to taste]
Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9 inch square pan, and line pan with a parchment sling.

Heat the brown sugar and butter together in a saucepan until the sugar is melted into a gooey mass with the butter, stirring occasionally. Let cool. Whisk flour and baking powder together, and set aside. Add egg, vanilla, salt, and bourbon to the cooled butter mixture, and beat together. Stir in the flour, and then the chocolate, until just combined. Spread batter in the pan, and bake 18-22 minutes, until light golden brown, and a tooth pick comes out clean, being very careful not to over bake. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Let cool in the pan, then carefully lift sling from the pan and cut into squares.

IMG_4253This brownie is an elaborate affair. It involves a salted caramel filling and a whole bunch of different ingredients I don’t normally keep (heavy cream, sour cream, corn syrup), but the resoundingly positive response to these have been worth every minute of labor I put into these.

The texture is rich, fudgy, and just a touch gooey with the help of the salted caramel sauce filling and underbaking on my part. The directive on The Vanilla Bean Blog said to be sparse with the caramel, and due to my temporary shock at how much butter and sugar a 12×9 inch pan brownie contains, I was very sparing with it but definitely could have used more. I’m not that experienced in caramelizing sugar and the caramel sauce could have used more heat too.

I generally prefer to convert volume measurements (cups/spoons) into weight (ounces/grams) but this recipe must have been made with the homemaker’s cavalier measurement style in mind – using a 100g = 1/2 cup ratio for sugar meant that this brownie had almost a pound of sugar in a 12×9 pan and I freaked out and hastily retrieved maybe 1/2 cup/100g worth of brown sugar lumps to reduce the caloric content and the brownie still turned out perfect.

The fleur de sel and coarse sugar topping really makes the dish, so be sure to hunt down some turbinado sugar or the like.

Salted Caramel Fudgy Brownies
Link from The Vanilla Bean Blog, Recipe from Baked Explorations
Makes 1 12×9 inch pan

filling
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (I used dark brown corn syrup to no ill effect)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

for the brownie
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate [60-72%], coarsely chopped
1 cup [2 sticks butter], cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar (I used probably about 1 cup and it was completely fine)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the assembly
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarse sugar

make the caramel
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with ¼ cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F, or until the mixture is dark amber in color (keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (careful, it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.

make the brownie

Preheat oven to 350. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9×13-inch pan. Line the bottom and sides with a parchment paper overhang, and butter the parchment that is in the pan

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.

Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperature.

Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture still visible.

assemble the brownies

Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about ¾ cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, making sure the caramel doesn’t come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Use an offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer, leaving about a ½-inch border around the edges. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer.

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs

Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar.

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I wanted to get back into my baking groove, and instead of being paralyzed by the wide variety of recipes at my disposal, I decided to keep it sweet and simple: a bare bones shortbread recipe. It was also easy to shape – all I needed to do was press it flat with my hands and cut it up into little rectangles. Sometimes, even balling cookie globs can be quite tedious when all you want to do is just end up with a finished product.

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I’m actually really surprised by how tasty these are for the amount of effort. The texture is light and crumbly, and the cookies truly melt in your mouth. Taking care to actually shave a bar of semi-sweet chocolate down into little flakes adds so much more dimension to an otherwise standard-issue butter shortbread cookie – it fulfills chocolatey cravings but imparts more flavor than cloying richness to the cookie. The cookie is also on the salty side, so you may want to skip the coarse salt topping.

Overall, this would make a great tea-time snack.

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Chocolate Speckled Salted Shortbread
From Bake or Break

Ingredients

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 & 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces dark chocolate, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon water, if necessary
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, such as fleur de sel

Instructions

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla until fluffy.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Sift flour, add salt to flour, then add to mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate.

Dough will be crumbly but should hold together when pinched. If dough is not holding together, mix in 1 tablespoon water. Don’t be afraid to dig your hands in to mix it all up if it’s not coming together properly in the mixer.

Form dough into 2 balls and flatten into discs. Wrap each disc tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325°. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disc of dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut dough into 1″x 2″ strips. Carefully transfer cookies to prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake 18-22 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on pans for 10 minutes. Then, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

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These cookies were inspired by a mom’s homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that she had sent to her (adult) children. When I was vacationing in California and visiting a friend, he opened up a package he had just received from his mom and inside was a big tupperware of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Having felt deprived of honest-to-goodness homemade food for a while, those cookies were manna for my hungry soul. Oatmeal cookies tend to get a bit of a bad rap because of those darn raisins that fool you into thinking that they are chocolate, but those cookies were all oatmeal chew with the deliciousness of chocolate and none of that raisin deception. I did a bit of research on the Internet for a recipe that would replicate those cookies’ chewy yet light texture, and I struck gold with this one. Just look at the alluring crackly tops in these cookies!

I’m typically all for a chewy cookie, but chewy cookies tend to be a little denser, and I wanted something that had some levity to it. This Cooking Light recipe seemed like it might be a good fit, and the 1/3 cup of butter confirmed my intuitions. The cookie itself has a crisp exterior, and a chewy interior due to underbaking it just a touch.

cookie inside

Baking soda and baking powder lent volume to the cookie, while oatmeal added bulk and texture without the density of flour. Pecan pieces added just a right touch of crunch. Instead of using chocolate chips, I used semisweet Trader Joe’s Pound Plus chocolate, chopped it up into small, almost flaky pieces, which adds subtle chocolate flavoring here and there, with an occasional melty chunk. I used 1/2 cup less sugar than the recipe recommended and it was still sweet enough. Since these cookies are meant to be light, use a weighing scale to measure out your ingredients as far as possible.

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In the vein of Louis CK, you don’t stop eating these cookies when you’re full – you stop eating when you realize you have just eaten 7 of these at a go and nothing else for the day.

Light and Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes 3 dozen

1 1/4 cups (150g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (80g) old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100g) packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (75g) butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60g) chopped pecans, toasted
1/4 cup (48g) semisweet high quality chocolate, chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk; set aside.
Place sugars and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add vanilla and egg; beat until blended. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in pecans and chocolate. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

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I’ve missed baking with bourbon, and ever since I moved to my new apartment, I knew that this was the time to buy a handle of bourbon to fulfill all my baking desires. While I enjoy a nice top-shelf bourbon for sipping, Jim Beam works just fine when it’s going to be complemented with chocolate and copious amounts of sugar. The first recipe to kick off this bourbon baking dry spell was this batch of bourbon brownies.

The original recipe recommended a sea salt topping, but I forgot and now this is just a fudgy brownie with notes of woodiness. It’s not going to make you drunk but you can definitely taste the bourbon. I’d recommend eating these brownies chilled; it really enhances the fudginess. Whiskey and chocolate just go so perfectly together… I actually had some chocolate-infused, locally-made moonshine from King’s County Distillery and really enjoyed it.

As usual, I sub in gluten-free flour when adverse effects are minimal. I used Carol Fenster’s baking mix of 1 cup rice flour, 1/2-3/4 cup potato starch and ¼ cup tapioca starch/flour. The downside to this flour is that it tends to clump up and might lead to clumps in your batter.

Bourbon Brownies
Adapted from Baking Bites
Makes one 8-9 inch square pan

1/2 cup butter
2-oz dark chocolate (60-70% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp bourbon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup all purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt together butter and dark chocolate in the microwave. This should be done in 30-second intervals to avoid overcooking the mixture, stirring to ensure that the chocolate has melted. Allow mixture to cool slightly and transfer into a large mixing bowl.
Whisk sugar and cocoa power into butter mixture. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, followed by 1/4 tsp salt, bourbon and vanilla extract. Whisk in the flour and stir until it is just incorporated, and no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Allow brownies to cool in the pan, then lift the foil to easily remove them before slicing.