Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cookies, Part 2

I've stopped moping. I could continue on in the same vein, but no matter how depressed I get if people don't like my food, I can't deny a simple fact: I take great joy from making it. The process of creating a dish or ten, of producing a meal from raw ingredients infused with some time and energy... it is very satisfying. It's a good stress reliever, a meditative exercise, an experiment of in-house chemistry, an creation of culinary art all at once. And besides, after giving so much of my daily life to food, how can I stay away from it for long?

Also, it helps to know that it really is just the sugar content of the cookies that makes them an issue. I tested this theory and discovered that savory baked goods disappear just as quickly as before. But if you think that means that I would ever even consider giving up on desserts, then you are sorely mistaken. Maybe I'll focus a little more on heartier food, but no one can ever persuade me to abadon chocolate. Do you hear me? I WILL NEVER SURRENDER!

And in that spirit of delicious defiance, I'm still throwing together these nom-ables on a weekly basis. Here are some of the recent discoveries.

White Chocolate and Peppermint Brownies
This one's a winner. Fortunately, you don't have to actually like white chocolate to enjoy this brownie; the recipe doesn't focus on it. Instead, it uses the white chocolate as a backdrop to the pulverised peppermint. Combined, the two eventually harden, making a bark-like crust that keeps the brownie component from drying out its dark, chocolaty goodness. It's excellent, and I don't use that term lightly when it comes to chocolate.3oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 8Tbs (1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup (6oz) white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped peppermint candies // I prefer more pulverised
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Kine 8-inch square baking pan with foil, allowing excess to hang over pan edges. Grease foil. Microwave unsweetened chocolate and butter in large bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 1min. Cool slightly.

Combine sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, and vanilla in medium bowl and whisk until well combined. Add chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir in flour until just combined. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with few crumbs attached, 22-27min.

Remove brownies from oven, sprinkle with white chocolate chips, and let sit until chips have softened but not melted, about 5min. Using spatula, smooth chocolate evenly over top of brownies, then sprinkle ground peppermint candies over chocolate. Cool completely, about 2hrs (yeah, right). Using foil voerhand, lift bars from pan and cut into squares.

Salty Chocolate Caramel Butter Cookies
I tapped this recipe to use as a caramel spill-over for last week's Chocolate Turtle Cookies. I knew I would have too many candies, and figured this would be a good way of using the rest of them. But to be honest, I'm tempted to say that this recipe is superior. Though they're a little tougher on the teeth (the textures of dry caramel and dry cookie differ greatly), their topping of salt & caramel guarantees that the dessert will have a very distinct taste. What's more, since it doesn't come across as very sweet, you feel less guilty about eating many in one sitting.
  • 20 Tbs (2,1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder // I had to skip this, but I bet it'd be great!
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract
  • 2,1/4 cups flour
  • 1 (14oz) bag soft caramel candies
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
Melt 4 Tbs butter, cocoa powder, and espresso powder in saucepan over medium heat; stir until mixture forms smooth paste. Cool 15min.

With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat remaining butter, sugar, salt, and cooled cocoa mixture until fluffy, 1min. Add yolks and vanilla and mix until combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour in three additions, and mix until cohesive dough forms. Divide dough into three disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1hr.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll each dough disk to 3/16-inch thickness. Using 2,1/2-inch round cutter, cut out cookies and place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until centers are just set, 10-12min, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool 5min, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

In saucepan, melt caramels an heavy cream over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Top each cookie with heaping teaspoon glaze and sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool 30min.

Christmas Meringue Kisses
I'm not actually a huge fan of meringues. Though light/airy and very easy too make, they fall prey to two faults -- or rather, two aspects of one fault: they have no interesting taste and what little taste you do get has an overwhelming sugar content. This take on meringues solves the first problem, but definitely not the second. First, you add crushed peppermint candy to the beaten egg whites (a convenient way to use some leftovers from the brownies above). Then, you dip the cooked/dried cookies in melted chocolate. The three tastes (meringue, peppermint, chocolate) work well together, but there's just too much to handle. Overall, I would say these are definitely worth making... once. Maybe experiment with them with you're fond of meringues. But ultimately, these will be enjoyed only by those with a very serious sweet tooth and a penchant towards hyperactivity.
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 Tbs crushed peppermint candies (about 8)
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 275 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat egg whites in large bowl until foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form, about 3min. Add vanilla and sugar, 1 Tbs at a time, and continue beating until mixture is glossy and stiff, about 2min. With spatula, fold in 1 cup chocolate chips and peppermint candies.

Using piping bag with plain 1/2-inch tip or teaspoon, pipe or dollop teaspoon-sized dots of batter, about 1 inch high, onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake until cookies begin to crack and are light gold, 25-30min, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool completely on sheets.

Melt remaining 1 cup chocolate chips and mix with oil in bowl. Dip bottoms of cooled kisses into chocolate, scrape off excess, and place, chocolate side up, on wire rack until chocolate sets.


Neen said...

Okay, a) You don't like meringues? What? You mean that I was the only one enjoying those fifty billion batches of meringues that I made back when you were nine? I'm slightly traumatized.

b) Totally agree on the caramel with salt, and generally the use of salt as a flavor in deserts. Big flakes of salt are best: sea salt or kosher salt as opposed to table salt, and just sprinkled on top. The best deserts that we've had at restaurants include vanilla soft serve ice cream with olive oil and sea salt, and a chocolate pot de creme with sea salt sprinkled on top. Yum.

Spuds said...

a) Hang on! I didn't say I disliked meringues. It's just that I, unlike my 9-year-old self, have an upper-limit on the quantity of PURE SUGAR that I can intake. I mean, meringues are merely a step or two above chocolate-frosted sugar bombs.

b) Agreed. I used flakes of rock salt for this recipe. They're more visible, have better texture, and are less, uh, pervasive than smaller-grained stuff. Tasty and decorative!