Tag Archives: chocolate

Is it a cookie? brownie? double chocolate dog bones?

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I have been on a roll with this oversized cookie thing. First there was a giant cookie, now we have a cookie slab. A double chocolate cookie-brownie slab. Come to think of it, a gluten-free double chocolate cookie-brownie slab.

Half of the slab became brownie-like slices, and the other half – I had  a dog bone-shaped cookie cutter, so there were double chocolate dog bones.

Woof.

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In the evening, Mr Gander and I had this exchange:

Mr Gander: what’s this?

Me: A giant cookie slab. Or cookie slab. As a cookie, it’s giant; but as a slab, it’s merely normal sized.

Mr Gander: and these?

Me: Dog bone cookie cut-out things.

Mr Gander: … …

(ps, he ate them anyway)

These were made from the recipe for double chocolate cookies, as part of this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie (TWD) assignment. I made this recipe using a mix of gluten free flours, following the ratio of 60% starch (I used potato starch and white rice flour), 40% whole grain (I used quinoa, brown rice and corn flour) from Gluten Free Girl. I also used more 85% chocolate, because I like my chocolate dark and cookies giant. 

The resulting cookie slab was a super-intense chocolate hit, dense, almost toothsome, not unlike drinking a doppio (double shot espresso) from the original Campos cafe. Best enjoyed in small bites with equally strong tea or coffee, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. If made with more milk chocolate, it would become a perfect companion to a glass of cold milk too. The recipe only uses a small amount of flour, with a huge quantity of chocolate, so I don’t think the GF flours affected the texture much, unless it made the cookies slab a little bit more crumbly.

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Cookies plus fun: chocolate, sprinkles, and giantness

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Cookies almost need no introduction. Small package of cheerfulness that fit into one hand(ful), in varieties of soft, crunchy, chewy. If you’re like me, you can always find room for just one more.

I haven’t baked that many cookies for this blog. There always seems to be another more exotic and/or more challenging recipe to try, and new techniques to learn. But this week, it felt like a time for cookies. Just cookies.

Maybe it’s because I had been planning a dinner party menu for 11-12 people all week. There are so many ideas whizzing around my head, it’s hard to focus one idea and build a menu around it. Dan Hong’s mapo tofu, David Thompson’s laksa from scratch, that amazing macaroni pie from The Leopard, or fesenjan? What about nibbles? Should I make bread? Make pasta? And dessert??

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In the middle of this food ideas whirlpool, Mr Gander asked me to bake something for a meeting at his work. No wonder I turned to something simple, foolproof, something that says ‘happy place’.

Like Celia (of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial)’s Perfect Gooey Cookie Slab.

When I first read about the cookie slab on Celia’s blog, her description stuck in my mind: “the disproportionately high chocolate content vis-à-vis flour results in a crisp wafery crust over a molten and butterscotchy centre (which sets firm by the following day).” Swoon.

Instead of a slab, I tried making a giant cookie, and covered it in hundreds and thousands (sprinkles). Compared to some recent projects, this was a cinch to make. Into the oven the cookie dough went, and began to spread and grow…

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Pumpernickel, poems and party season

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Pumpernickel. The stuff of life and the stuff of dreams.

Philip Schulz wrote a poem about it. Please have a read, if only for the image of the steam curling off the black crust like a strip of pure sunlight, and of holding up a slice of bread in all its absurd splendour:

Monday mornings Grandma rose an hour early to make rye,
onion & challah, but it was pumpernickel she broke her hands for,
pumpernickel that demanded cornmeal, ripe caraway, mashed potatoes
& several Old Testament stories about patience & fortitude & for
which she cursed in five languages if it didn’t pop out fat
as an apple-cheeked peasant bride. But bread, after all,
is only bread & who has time to fuss all day & end up
with a dead heart if it flops? Why bother? I’ll tell you why.
For the moment when the steam curls off the black crust like a strip
of pure sunlight & the hard oily flesh breaks open like a poem
pulling out of its own stubborn complexity a single glistening truth
& who can help but wonder at the mystery of the human heart when you
hold a slice up to the light in all its absurd splendor & I tell you
we must risk everything for the raw recipe of our passion.

With this encouragement and warning, I pulled pumpernickel out of the oven on Sunday afternoon.

The recipe didn’t require several Old Testament stories about patience and fortitude, for which I was thankful. Sadly, it didn’t quite have the ‘absurd splendour’ of Schultz’s idealised pumpernickel. But then, can any pumpernickel be better than Grandma’s, especially a Grandma that can talk bread in five languages?

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Don’t get me wrong. The loaves had the dense, even crumb, and rye and caraway flavour, and was a good rye bread. The dough was fine to knead by hand, and everything went smoothly (almost exactly) according to the recipe. The finished loaves formed a good foil for a slather of fresh ricotta, crumbled goat’s milk fetta, walnuts, and honey. The goat cheese and walnut strong enough to stand up to the rye and caraway, while the milder ricotta and honey helped to turn it into an easy crowd pleaser.

In fact, I’ve learned this bread just in time for party season in Australia, with Melbourne Cup Day or the race that stops the nation (first Tuesday of November), summer afternoon picnics, summer evening parties, and never ending Christmas get-togethers.

It’s just … I like the pumpernickel that can break the baker’s hands, is black from up to 24 hours of slow baking, barely risen, and heavy with whole rye berries. In other words, the romantic idea of Grandma’s black pumpernickel.

Wordsworth and Coleridge would be proud.

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In the meantime, here is a good loaf of rye bread or modern pumpernickel. Don’t be put off by my impractical ramblings, it’s a tasty loaf. As for the long list of slightly strange ingredients, they look pretty similar to the ingredients for Russian black bread and other rye breads. And it’s a handy bread for dinner party canapes.

Too much bread? Rye bread crumbs make an interesting change from white bread crumbs. And, old rye bread can be used to make altus – old bread soaked in water and added to dough, to intensify the flavour, though not sure if wheat-rye bread can be used?

Changes from the recipe: I could only find fine rye flour, not medium or coarse rye flour. Also, instead of the novel method of proofing the dough inside hanging tea towels, I used a couple of baskets. Lastly, I ran out of eggs (what kind of baker runs out of eggs?), so instead of an egg white glaze I artistically sprinkled flour onto the loaves.

Lastly, I found the video of the episode useful.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Pumpernickel is this week’s TWD assignment. We are baking from the book, Baking with Julia, by Dorie Greenspan. Please go to the TWD blog and see what other TWD bakers have done.

Pumpernickel

(Available in Baking with Julia. Also available on contributing baker Lauren Groveman’s website. The version that appears on Lauren’s website is reproduced below.)

Special Equipment

8-quart mixing bowl, to rise dough
Wooden surface for kneading
Pastry scraper
Quarry tiles or a pizza stone (use dark steel shallow baking sheet as a substitute)
Baker’s peel, to transfer loaves to oven (use a flat cookie sheet as a substitute)
Oven sweep, to brush meal off tiles after baking, optional

Ingredients

3 to 4 tablespoons melted butter, for greasing
2 cups plain yogurt, at room temperature or, as a substitute, use tepid water (warm to the touch)
1 stick (approx 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup prune lekvar (also called prune butter. See here for a prune lekvar recipe)
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 cup boiling water
2 1/2 squares (2 1/2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, broken (note I used 85% cocoa chocolate and only used a tiny, tiny pinch of sugar to compensate)
2 tablespoons ground caraway seeds
1 1/2 tablespoon whole caraway seeds
1 tablespoon fine table salt
2 1/2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
Pinch of sugar
3 1/2 cups coarse rye meal (if unavailable, substitute medium rye flour)
Up to 6 cups (approx 800 grams) high gluten bread flour, including flour for dusting and shaping
Glaze: 1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Topping: sesame seeds and/or caraway seeds (optional)
Cornmeal (medium ground), for bakers peel

Method

1. To set up: Brush an 8-quart bowl (I used a large mixing bowl) with melted butter and set aside to rise dough. Take out your pastry scraper, another large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon.

2. To assemble dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, cubed butter, shortening, lekvar and molasses. Dissolve instant espresso in 1 cup boiling water and pour into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add broken chocolate and melt chocolate in espresso over very low heat until smooth, stirring frequently. Add to mixing bowl with powdered and whole caraway seeds and salt.

3. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar until creamy and pour into mixing bowl along with the rye meal. Stir to combine well. Using a wooden spoon, briskly stir in enough bread flour, 1/2 to 1 cup (up to approx 130 grams) at a time, until you create a mass that’s not easily stirred, but not dry.

4. Turn the mass out onto a floured wooden board and knead until smooth and elastic, adding only as much flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking to your work surface and hands. In the beginning of the kneading process, this dough will feel quite “pasty” because of the rye flour. As always, use a pastry scraper while kneading to scrape dough off the board cleanly as you continue to knead in a sufficient amount of flour.

5. To rise dough twice: When dough is smooth and elastic, place it in the buttered rising bowl. Cover bowl with buttered plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 1/2 hours. Punch down dough with several swift swats from the back of your hand to deflate dough totally. Turn over dough, cover and let rise again for 1 1/2 hours.

6. To shape oblong loaves: Turn out fully risen dough onto a lightly floured board and use the blade of your pastry scraper to divide dough in half. Work with half the dough at a time, keeping the other half covered.

7. Lay two clean kitchen towels on your counter and sprinkle them with bread flour. Roll dough half into a 7×10-inch rectangle. Starting at the short end farthest from you, roll dough toward you, pinching to seal as you go. Pinch to seal the ends and tuck under to attach to the bottom seam. Rotate and plump dough to finish shaping and place shaped loaf (seam side up) diagonally on a prepared towel. Form a sling by joining the corners of the towel farthest from the loaf. Secure the joined towel points within a closed drawer (in a quiet area) so the loaves hang undisturbed in their slings for 45 minutes.

8. To set up for baking loaves: While bread is rising, position the rack in the second or third lowest shelf in the oven and, if using a sheet of quarry tiles or a pizza stone, place it on the rack. On the rack below this, place a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pan, which will preheat along with the tiles. Sprinkle a baker’s peel or a flat cookie sheet with cornmeal. Thirty minutes before the end of the rise, preheat oven to 450F / about 230C.

9. If not using tiles or a stone, brush or spray 1 or 2 large (preferably dark steel) shallow baking sheets with vegetable oil and sprinkle interior with cornmeal. After mixing egg white and water, pour into a small medium-mesh sieve into another bowl to remove excess coagulation and any bubbles created while mixing. Place glaze next to your work surface.

10. To slash and glaze loaves: Working with one loaf at a time, carefully release slings and gently turn out loaves from towels (smooth side up) onto the prepared baker’s peel or baking sheet at least 3 inches apart. Use your hands gently to plump loaf into a neat shape. Using a sharp serrated knife or a razor, slash tops of each loaf three times horizontally, going 1/3 inch deep into the dough. Using a pastry brush, paint tops and sides of loaves (excluding slashes) generously with glaze.

11. To bake loaves: Just before inserting the dough into the hot oven, carefully pour ¾ cup warm water into the pan beneath the rack used to bake the loaves, then shut the door while you go get the loaves. If baking with tiles, insert the peel all the way to the back of the oven and with one swift jerk pull out the peel, leaving loaves on the hot tiles (preferably with three inches between them). If not using tiles or a stone, place loaves into the hot oven on their baking sheets as directed.

12. Bake loaves at 450o F / 230C for 10 minutes.

13. Reduce heat to 350F / 175C and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool thoroughly before slicing, 2 to 3 hours.

From ganache to molten chocolate cakelets

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“I wonder what would happen if…”. This is a question I often ask when I think about food. This afternoon, this question took David Lebovitz’s salted butter chocolate sauce into the oven and returned with a plateful of oozy, molten lava-like cakelets, or fondants.

Ever since I made David Lebovitz’s salted butter chocolate sauce for the Tuesdays with Dorie profiteroles (and added star anise), I’ve been thinking about that sauce. It was rich, had tiny flecks of saltiness and savoury-aromatic five spice, flirting with dark chocolate and butter. We don’t eat much ice cream around the house, so I found myself digging into that sauce with a spoon. Straight from the fridge, it was a smooth ganache that melts on the tongue to leave me wanting more.

But, one can only eat chocolate ganache for a snack so many times before, well, it starts to seem excessive. So I began to think about other ways to have my star-anise salted-butter chocolate sauce and eat it too.

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Then, an idea popped into my head, niggling, like a chocolate ganache ear worm – “what if I turned the chocolate sauce into a chocolate fondant or lava cake?”

The ear worm stayed with me during the week and prompted me to look into recipes for chocolate fondant, lava cake, molten chocolate cake. Finally, I went back to FX Cuisine (one of the first food blogs I became obsessed with, before I knew blogging was an online publishing genre), and saw an elaborate recipe for chocolate raspberry moelleux, from Pierre Hermé, no less. It requires the baker to add pieces of frozen raspberry ganache and dollops of the best raspberry jam into the cake batter, so that the finished cake will reveal a centre of warm, sweet-tart, liquid raspberry. And the ear worm became a full fledged idea.

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Butter, flour, magic: profiteroles with pandan pastry cream and star anise chocolate

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French patisserie has a touch of magic about it. Bring together butter, flour, baker’s hands, a little patience, a touch of bravery, and beautiful, marvellous things happen. Like croissants, brioche, pastries, and today, profiteroles.

This is my second time making profiteroles. The first time was early last year. There were two really good bakers in our team at the time, boys wonders who competed to out-do each other by bringing gorgeous desserts to team meetings: New York cheesecake, pear and hazelnut tortes, Mexican flans. I was still learning the basics of baking, but decided to challenge the boys by making profiteroles.

(Can you tell we are a bunch of overachievers?)

So one night after dinner, I found myself cooking water, butter and flour together; stirring the mixture until the lumps turned into a shiny, stiff ball. Adding eggs, seeing the ball become wet, blobby, hopeless; stirring on blind faith, seeing it come back together again, shinier and looser than before. Piping, into the oven, anxiously watching, sitting on a stool in front of the oven.

And watching as the choux pastry balls grew bigger and puff up. As if by magic.*

* Choux pastry is “double cooked”, a process that imbues it with some very special properties (Joe Pastry). It is made of a cooked roux, with eggs added. It has a high water content. During baking (the second ‘cooking’), the water turns into steam and forces the pastry shell to expand and puff up, before stabilising and holding its shape.

Some of the first batch deflated once out of the oven (took them out too soon, rookie’s mistake). Others looked a little lopsided. Then, the second batch puffed up, slightly crisp, and held their shape. I still remembering cutting into a choux pastry puff for the first time, and seeing the hollow in the centre. It seemed a miraculous thing.

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