Archive for the 'Chocolate' Category

Cookies Day 12: Brownie Thins

I’m very, very happy to report that these cookies weren’t just good, not just great. They were glorious.

Do you like brownies? Do you like the edges of brownies? Do you like the crusty stuff that sticks to the pan when you remove the brownies?

If so, this recipe is for you.

Do you like one-bowl baking? Do you like easy baking? Do you like using your microwave when baking?

If so, this recipe is for you.

Do you like making desserts quickly, under 30 minutes? Do you like recipes you can throw together at the last minute? Do you like baking gifts for your friends, but not wasting your entire day?

If so, this recipe is for you.

I even royally screwed up this recipe by reading “1 cup sugar” instead of the actual “1/2 cup sugar” and adding a whole extra half cup to the recipe, and it still turned out great. This must be one of those recipes that you can’t screw up unless you really try, one of those non-bakers baking recipes. Furthermore, you do all of your butter- and chocolate-melting and mixing in one bowl, mixing only briefly.

The cookies are almost like lace cookies in chocolate form, chewy in the middle yet firm and crispy around the edges. The pisachios add a nice little crunch and difference of texture, while the unsweetened chocolate keep the cookies from becoming too sweet, even if you were to add extra sugar.

Brownie Thins
(original recipe Bon Appetit December 2007)

Ingredients
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of coarse kosher salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Preparation
Position rack in lowest third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Butter 2 baking sheets. Place butter and chocolate in medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium-high power until almost completely melted, about 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Add sugar and egg; whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Add flour, both extracts, and salt; stir just to blend. Let batter stand 10 minutes.

Scoop rounded teaspoonfuls batter onto prepared baking sheets, spacing apart (12 per sheet). Spray sheet of plastic wrap lightly with nonstick spray. Place, sprayed side down, over cookies. Using fingers, press each mound into 2 1/2- to 2 3/4-inch round. Remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle pistachios over rounds. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until slightly darker at edges and firm in center, about 7 minutes. Cool on sheet 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack; cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Cookies Day 7: Mini Black and White Cookies

Today was a long day. First day of internship after not a lot of sleep, work til 6, walk back 3 miles, run 6.5 miles, dinner, shower, cookies. In other words, I’m tired.

These cookies did not make me happy. I was expecting flat, miniature versions of the traditional cookie. Instead, I got puffy mounds. Even after icing the flat end, I still wasn’t that happy with them, even though they do taste pretty awesome. Light, with just a hint of lemon in the icing, paired with chocolate … but they’re too puffy. At least they’re tasty, but I found myself going over the recipe countless times to try and figure out where I missed up to make my cookies rise so much. Maybe it was the way I spooned them out onto the cookie sheet, even though I did exactly what the recipe said.

Oh well, can’t win em all, including my fantasy football team where I was a HUGE loser and forgot to check my players’ status on Saturday night and one was injured but it was too late to take him out by the time I noticed it ….. kiss kiss bye bye first place, it was fun.

The icing, at least, is fabulous. And makes a. lot.

Mini Black-and-White Cookies
(original recipe Gourmet December 2005)

Ingredients
For cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg

For icings
2 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 to 6 tablespoons water
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

Special equipment: a small offset spatula

Preparation
Make cookies:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and mixing just until smooth.

Drop rounded teaspoons of batter 1 inch apart onto baking sheets. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until tops are puffed, edges are pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Make icings while cookies cool:
Stir together confectioners sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth. If icing is not easily spreadable, add more water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Transfer half of icing to another bowl and stir in cocoa, adding more water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to thin to same consistency as vanilla icing. Cover surface with a dampened paper towel, then cover bowl with plastic wrap.

Ice cookies:
With offset spatula, spread white icing over half of flat side of each cookie. Starting with cookies you iced first, spread chocolate icing over other half.

Cookies Day 5: Chocolate Peanut Toffee

Every time I plan on going for a 10 mile run, something seems to come up. Rain, cold, hangovers. Today it was snow. Wet, heavy, mushy, yucky snow. It’s also cold, but that doesn’t bother me as much as being wet AND cold.

So I didn’t really feel obligated to get myself going early this morning, or do anything at all, really. As I type this, I’m mentally preparing myself to go to the gym, but it’s been a pretty lazy Saturday up to this point.

Flipping through recipes in my now daily quest to find a cookie to bake, I came upon this chocolate peanut toffee recipe. Other than cutting some things up and boiling some other things, there’s not much to this recipe. It also doesn’t require any baking, which means I got to keep my oven turned off for at least a day.

One of the best things about this toffee is the simplicity of the ingredients, allowing for a pure, sharp contrast between the deepness of the chocolate and the bite of the salt. It’s reminiscent of the now ubiquitous salted caramel, but with chocolate.

Chocolate Peanut Toffee
(original recipe Gourmet December 2007)

Ingredients
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups whole cocktail peanuts plus 1 cup chopped (1 pound 10 ounces)
7 to 8 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Equipment: a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan; a candy thermometer; a metal offset spatula

Preparation
Butter baking pan and put on a heatproof surface.

Bring butter, sugar, and salt to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat, whisking until smooth, then boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden and registers 300°F (hard-crack stage; see Kitchen Notebook, page 240) on thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes.

Immediately stir in whole peanuts, then carefully pour hot toffee into center of baking pan. Spread with spatula, smoothing top, and let stand 1 minute, then immediately sprinkle chocolate on top. Let stand until chocolate is melted, 4 to 5 minutes, then spread over toffee with cleaned spatula. Sprinkle evenly with chopped peanuts, then freeze until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces.

Cookies Day 4: Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies

It’s hard to follow up such an exciting day as yesterday. Today I woke up with an unhappy stomach, likely from too much sugar, and didn’t even want a cookie until after I spent around 3 hours in the gym. Then I had 2 Mexican cookies, eventually had a peppermint patty, and some beers. Someday I’ll find a middle ground.

Anyway, there’s not much of an intro to these cookies, other than I saw them and wanted to make them. I did learn the lesson of overcooking from these cookies, however. I probably should have learned it after day 1 when my molasses cookies came out a little hard, but the differences between 12 minutes and 15-18 minutes of cooking became apparant with these cookies. There’s no way to sugar coat it, my oven is shit. It’s never on the temperature I set it to, which means I have to turn the temp up about 50 degrees over the intended temp and stare at a foggy oven thermometer with my fingers crossed, hoping that the resulting temp will be somewhat close to what I want. With this in mind, and remembering how flat the molasses crinkles cooked, I was expecting these cookies to flatten out as well, so I kept them in the oven for a little longer to see if they would change. Regardless of the extra time, the cookies retained the shape of little round pillows. The result: the first batch was a little harder than I would like. The center is chewy like it is supposed to be, but less chewy than I would like, with a little too much crunch around the edges. The second batch, which I cooked for 12 minutes, came out much better, with a larger chewy center. I’m learning that I think I would rather have an undercooked cookie than an overcooked cookie. Even though hard cookies are fun to dunk in milk, there’s just something about a chewy cookie that hits me where I like.

These cookies requires a little more steps than your very basic recipe but were still easy to make. As happens with every recipe I’ve made recently, I misread something and did something wrong, freezing the dough instead of chilling it for a few hours, but this mistake was negligible in the end, I think. The hazelnut flavor of the cookies is subtle, with most of the flavor coming from the chocolate, but it’s not completely overpowered. The contrast between the dark chocolate and the powdered sugar is nice, and the small size of the cookies makes them easy to eat, which could be a bad thing. I highly recommend these, and hopefully you have a digital temperature guage on your oven, unlike mine.

Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies
(original recipe Gourmet December 2006)

Ingredients
2/3 cup hazelnuts
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Special equipment: parchment paper

Preparation
Make dough:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Toast hazelnuts in a shallow baking pan in oven until skins split and nuts are pale golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven (turn oven off), then wrap hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove any loose skins. Cool nuts completely. Pulse nuts with granulated sugar in a food processor until finely chopped.

Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and set aside.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in melted chocolate until combined. Add milk and vanilla, beating to incorporate. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir in nut mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Form and bake cookies:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift confectioners sugar into a bowl. Halve dough and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll remaining half into 1-inch balls, placing them on a sheet of wax paper as rolled. Roll balls, 3 or 4 at a time, in confectioners sugar to coat generously and arrange 2 inches apart on lined baking sheets.

Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are puffed and cracked and edges feel dry (but centers are still slightly soft), 12 to 18 minutes total. Transfer cookies (still on parchment) to racks to cool completely.

While first batch is baking, roll remaining dough into balls. Line cooled cookie sheets with fresh parchment, then coat balls with confectioners sugar and bake in same manner.

Cookie Day 2: Peppermint Patties

For the second day of my Twenty-ish Days of Christmas Cookies, I went off the beaten path and chose a recipe that was not listed on epicurious.com’s 25 Days of Christmas Cookies. Digging through the old food magazines, I found an apparantly simple recipe for peppermint patties. Another appealing factor: the only additional ingredients I needed to purchase were peppermint extract and 10 oz. of bittersweet chocolate. Not too many ingredients, this should be easy and quick like the last cookie recipe, right?

The preparation started off simple enough, and maybe that simplicity led me into a false confidence. When I started to knead the filling of the cookies, I couldn’t help but notice that it was extremely brittle, barely sticking together and crumbling at the slightest pressure. I started to wonder, did I beat this too long? Did I make it too hard? Given that this was my first attempt of the recipe, I had no standard for comparison, so I pressed on, trying to quiet the doubts lingering at the back of my mind.

The brittleness of the filling only became more apparant when I started cutting it into small rounds. Although the thicker parts of the filling emerged from the cutting unharmed, the thinner-rolled parts cracked under the pressure of the cutter. I tried to meld the broken pieces back together and hoped that they would hold, but the broken pieces failed to hold together when dipped in the chocolate.

The chocolate. Oh, the chocolate. Although I had glanced at the recipe preparation before baking and knew that I would have to temper the chocolate, I didn’t anticipate how much time the tempering would actually take. After initially melting the chocolate, I waited, and waited, and waited for the temperature to reach 80 degrees, but it just felt like it would never get there. In impatient frustration, I threw the bowl of chocolate into the fridge for 5 minutes, something I knew I shouldn’t do but that I couldn’t help. The temp got down to exactly 80, but it now had a thin film, and I still had to re-boil the water. You can see where this is going. By the time the water was boiling, the temp of the chocolate was below 80, and I had to re-melt the film that had formed on the top of the chocolate.  After all that effort, I didn’t even have enough chocolate for all of the peppermint fillings. I had a couple of ounces left of one bar, so I just melted it quickly without tempering it and covered the rest of the fillings. In the end, everything was put together, but it was not without some frustration and missteps.

So how to the cookies taste? Amazing. Incredible. Melt in your mouth candy sweetness. Jay commented that the finished product was more like candy than a cookie, and it doesn’t take long for you to reach your limit. They taste exactly like the regular peppermint patties, but better, with the subtle added quality of good, fresh ingredients. Maybe the added taste comes from the love and effort required to pull off the finished product.

These cookies really do taste wonderful, but part of me wonders whether or not they are worth the effort. Before abandoning the recipe forever and swearing them off as not worth it, I think I will give this recipe another go, tweak my preparation style a little bit, and learn to be a little more patient.

Peppermint Patties
(original recipe Gourmet December 2007)
NOTE that the recipe calls them candies, not cookies!

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (less than 1 pound), divided
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
10 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Equipment: a 1-inch round cookie cutter; a digital instant-read thermometer

Preparation
Make filling:
Beat 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, shortening, and a pinch of salt using an electric mixer (with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium speed until just combined. Knead on a work surface dusted with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Roll out between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a 7- to 8-inch round (less than 1/4 inch thick). Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of paper and sprinkle round with confectioners sugar. Replace top sheet, then flip round over and repeat sprinkling on other side.

Cut out as many rounds as possible with cutter, transferring to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gather scraps, reroll, and freeze, then cut out more rounds, freezing them.

Temper chocolate and coat filling:
Melt three fourths of chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove bowl from pan and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth. Cool until thermometer inserted at least 1/2 inch into chocolate registers 80°F.

Return water in pan to a boil and remove from heat. Set bowl with cooled chocolate over pan and reheat, stirring, until thermometer registers 88 to 91°F. Remove bowl from pan.

Balance 1 peppermint round on a fork and submerge in melted chocolate, letting excess drip off and scraping back of fork against rim of bowl if necessary, then return patty to sheet (to make decorative ridges on patty, immediately set bottom of fork briefly on top of patty, then lift fork straight up). Coat remaining rounds, rewarming chocolate to 88 to 91°F as necessary. Let patties stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

Twelve-Layer Mocha Cake

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“We’re just outside of Knoxville right now, so we won’t be home for another 8 hours probably. Like 2am?”

I was crammed into the passenger seat of my small car, sharing the space with magazines, one of my coats, my laptop and lawschool books under my legs, and dog treats shoved in between me and the door. We were making the long drive from DC to Arkansas for Christmas.

“Oh well we’ll probably be asleep by then. Is it ok if you make dessert for Christmas?”

Since junior highschool, I’ve been the unofficially designated dessert maker for all family gatherings. Traditionally I try to find creative and interesting desserts, things with kind of a “wow” factor. The year of a terrible ice storm I made snowmen out of ice cream. At one point I came across two different pumpkin bread pudding recipes, and not being pleased with either one, I combined both of the recipes into my own version, and the resulting dessert was a staple that showed up at both Thanksgiving and Christmas for years.

My mom didn’t really need to ask me to make dessert–the magazines in the car were all food magazines from which I was trying to chose this year’s Christmas dessert–because I already knew I had the job, but she just wanted to make sure, in case, for some reason, I would forget.

For some reason this year’s new dessert offerings left me a little disappointed. Nevertheless, when I first laid eyes on the twelve-layer mocha cake from Gormet, I knew I had found a winner. All those layers, all those different flavors, all those different textures. It sounded right up my alley.

Mom did not have three 15×10 cake pans, so Jay and I went in search of some extras. In a rush, I forgot to look at the exact pan measurements, so when we returned home with three 17×12 cake pans, I was a little concerned. Rather than take away from the flavor, the larger cake pans made every layer thinner, at times a little crisper. The cake layer was not as spongy is I would have wanted, the soufle layer didn’t have a chance to rise in order to have a chance to fall (as the recipe dictates), and the meringue layer was a little chewy. All these minor faults aside, I think the total combination was better than a sum of its parts, and it still won praise from around the table.

Despite the multitude of layers, this cake was pretty easy to make, and each layer required only a short amount of cooking time. The hardest element was the buttercream frosting, which required 30 minutes of beating time. Given the fact that I had left my standing mixer at home, this required a lot of arm strength and a couple of substitutions of pastry chefs in order to beat the mixture for the allotted time using a hand mixer. Even still, the buttercream managed to curdle, which required placing the bowl within another bowl of ice to finish it off.

This dessert is incredibly rich, and after eating the small rectangular slice at Christmas dinner, I honestly wasn’t ever in the mood for another piece. Luckily, my husband loves desserts like this, and he did an excellent job of finishing it off over the next couple of weeks.

All of the flavors in the cake play well off of each other and compliment each other, and you can really taste each layer separately with each bite. Not only did I note the difference in the layers, but everyone at the table mentioned that you could really taste all of the different components, one after the other. This kind of flavor waterfall is always a treat, a fun little theater for your tongue. The textures of each layer are also noticeable, with the meringue haveing a springy sort of chewiness.

Oh, and it looks pretty cool too.

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Twelve-Layer Mocha Cake
( Gourmet December 2008 )

Ingredients:
For cake layers:
4 large egg yolks at room temperature 30 minutes
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes

For soufflélayers:
6 ounces fine-quality 60%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup water
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

For meringue layers:
2/3 cup hazelnuts (3 1/2 ounces)
3 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar

For syrup:
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder

For filling:
Coffee and mocha buttercreams (recipe follows)

Equipment: 3 (15-by 10-inch) 4-sided sheet pans (1/2 inch deep)

Preparation:

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter 1 sheet pan and line bottom with parchment paper, then butter parchment. Dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Whisk together yolks, milk, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then whisk in flour and salt until smooth. (Batter will be thick.)

Beat whites with an electric mixer until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Fold one third of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remainder gently but thoroughly.

Spread batter evenly in pan and rap against counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until cake is dry to the touch and pale golden, 10 to 11 minutes. (Leave oven on.) Cool completely in pan on a rack.

Halve cake crosswise, cutting through parchment, to form 2 (10-by 7 1/2-inch) layers.

Prepare soufflé layers while cake bakes:
Line second sheet pan with parchment paper.

Melt chocolate with water [i.e. double boiler], then cool to lukewarm.

Beat yolks, salt, and 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes with a stand mixer or 8 minutes with a handheld. Fold in melted chocolate.

Beat whites with cleaned beaters until they hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.

Fold one third of whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold in remainder gently but thoroughly. Spread batter evenly in lined sheet pan.

Bake soufflé layers:
Bake until puffed and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack, then cover top of soufflé with 2 layers of damp paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove towels and cool soufflé completely in pan (soufflé will deflate as it cools). Sift cocoa over soufflé, then loosen edges with a sharp knife.

Halve soufflécrosswise, cutting through parchment, to form 2 (10-by 7 1/2-inch) layers.

Make meringue layers:
Toast hazelnuts, then cool, wrapped in a kitchen towel, and rub off any loose skins.

Reduce oven to 250°F.

Finely chop nuts.

Beat whites with salt and cream of tartar using electric mixer until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until meringue is stiff but still glossy.

Line bottom of third sheet pan with parchment. Put small dabs of meringue under corners of parchment to secure to baking sheets.

Fold nuts into meringue and spread evenly in pan. Bake until set and pale golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

Halve meringue crosswise, cutting through parchment, to form 2 (10-by 7 1/2-inch) layers. Return to oven and bake until crisp, 45 minutes to 1 hour more. Cool in pan, then peel off parchment.

Make syrup and assemble cake:
Bring water, sugar, and espresso powder to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Cool.

Loosen edges of 1 cake layer with a knife and invert onto a flat platter. Carefully peel parchment from cake and brush with some of syrup. Spread with 1 1/4 cups mocha buttercream.

Top with 1 meringue layer and spread with 1 1/4 cups coffee buttercream.

Carefully invert 1 soufflé layer onto buttercream and peel off parchment, then gently spread with 1 1/4 cups coffee buttercream.

Repeat layering, ending with coffee buttercream (there will be some left over). Chill at least 1 hour (after that, wrap in plastic wrap). Trim all around cake with a long sharp knife to neaten edges. [Note: I didn’t do this last step.] Bring to room temperature (about 1 hour) before serving.

Coffee and Mocha Buttercreams
(Gourmet December 2008)

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar, divided
3/4 cup water
6 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
2 tablspoons plus 1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder
1 tablspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 sticks (1 1/2 pounds) unsalted butter, cut into tablspoon pieces and softened
6 ounces fine-quality 60%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm

Equipment: a candy thermometer; a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment

Preparation:

Bring 1 3/4 cups sugar and water to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil, without stirring, until it registers 220 to 225°F, 15 to 20 minutes.

At this point, while continuing to boil syrup, beat whites with espresso powder, vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt in mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating, and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

When syrup reaches soft-ball stage (238 to 242°F), immediately pour syrup in a slow stream down side of bowl into whites (avoid beaters) while beating at high speed. Beat until completely cool, 25 to 30 minutes. With mixer at medium speed, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition (see cooks’ note, below) and until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all butter is added but will come together at end.)

Transfer 2 cups buttercream to a small bowl and stir in chocolate. If buttercreams are too soft to spread, chill, stirring occasionally.

Cooks’ notes:
If buttercream looks soupy after some butter is added, meringue is too warm: Chill bottom of bowl in an ice bath for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.
Buttercreams can be made 1 week ahead and chilled or 1 month ahead and frozen. Bring to room temperature (do not use a microwave), about 2 hours, and beat with an electric mixer until spreadable.
The egg whites in this recipe are not fully cooked.

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Guinness Ice Cream

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When I first saw this recipe, I thought, You’ve got to be kidding me. I like Guinness and all, but ice cream? Even though I’ve used Guinness in chocolate cake, I was a little apprehensive about how it would turn out, pretty naked in ice cream. This kind of recipe, however, is not the kind that you can easily pass up.

Jay ended up making the ice cream, so I have no idea about the level of difficulty as far as procedure goes, I can only speak about result. The recipe recommends that you pair the ice cream with chocolate-covered pretzels, and this is a recmmendation that I readily affirm. The ice cream is fine by itself, but without the added sweet and saltiness from the pretzels, the ice cream is a little too yeasty and the flavor is a little too strong. One good thing about this ice cream, however, is that you can’t eat a lot of it all at one time.

Next time we make this ice cream, we plan on adding little bits of chocolate-covered pretzels to the ice cream itself.

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Guinness Ice Cream with Chocolate Covered Pretzels
(original recipe Food & Wine)

Ingredients
2 cups Guinness (16 ounces)
2 cups heavy cream
1 3/4 cups whole milk
15 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
Chocolate-Covered Pretzels, for serving

Method
In a large saucepan, combine the Guinness with the cream and milk and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. Gradually add the hot Guinness cream to the yolks, whisking constantly until well blended.

Pour the mixture into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until it coats the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes; do not let it boil. Pour the custard into a medium bowl set in a large bowl filled with ice water. Let stand until the custard is cold, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions (this may have to be done in 2 batches). Pack the ice cream into an airtight container and freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

Spoon the ice cream into bowls and top with some Chocolate-Covered Pretzels. Serve at once.

Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

Ingredients
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
2 cups thin pretzel sticks

Method
Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pretzels and stir gently until coated. Using a fork, transfer the pretzels to the wax paper, letting the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Refrigerate the pretzels until the chocolate is set, about 20 minutes.

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