The Big Chocolate Show

big-chocoalte-showAlways wanted to know how to make our amazing chocolate chip cookies?  Want to take them over the top?  Fill them with cookie butter and make a sandwich cookie.

big-chocoalte-show-2On this past Saturday afternoon I showed lucky attendees of the brand new Big Chocolate Show all my tips and tricks for making what I think are the perfect chocolate chip cookies.  And here is the recipe for you to  make them at home.
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What is my idea of the perfect chocolate chip cookie?  For me its substantial, crunchy and chewy and most importantly packed with a whole lot of great chocolate.  For  this one we used Valrhona Caraibe, a 66% dark chocolate.  I use the pieces whole, so that when the cookie bakes I get shards of chocolate spread throughout.

Its very important to chill the dough fully before baking, mostly to control spread, but there is also a bit of flavor melding going on there that really improves the overall taste.  You can scoop them, chill and bake immediately, or you you can resist, you can freeze the raw scooped dough and bake them whenever you want fresh cookies.  (or sometimes sneak the raw cookie dough to snack on)

You’ll also want to make sure the butter is melted and cooled.  Hot butter added to the sugar will change the spread too.  Baking from frozen will take longer than from chilled so don’t be surprised if yours take a bit longer than the estimated times.  big-chocoalte-show-3

After the cookies have cooled, I make the cookie butter and pipe mounds of it onto an upturned cookie, and top with another.  We use a meringue buttercream at the shop, but the recipe below is for an American Buttercream.  Either way will be great, but the American version will be a bit sweeter.

Its a good idea to chill them a bit to set, but them bring them back to room temperature to enjoy.

Happy Baking!

Sugar Couture’s   Chocolate Chip Cookie   

Yield 20 1 oz cookies

 

Ingredients:

¾ cup (6 oz) white sugar

¾ cup (4.5 oz) brown sugar

6 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 1/5 cups (11 oz) All purpose flour

¾ tst salt

½ tsp baking powder

½ t baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

1 yolk

1 cup (5 oz) high quality chocolate pieces or chips

 

Instructions:

 

  1. Melt butter and set aside to cool down.
  2. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, cream cooled butter with white and brown sugar
  4. Add egg and then yolk to the creamed butter and sugar.   Add vanilla and mix to combine
  5. Stop the machine and add half the flour mixture. Mix to combine.   Repeat with the remaining flour mixture.
  6. Stir in chocolate pieces by hand.
  7. Scoop cookies with one ounce pastry scoop. Alternately you can use a table spoon to portion or roll into a log, chill and cut even 1/3” rounds.
  8. Its best to refrigerate the portioned cookies overnight. You can also freeze them at this stage in a single layer on a sheet tray. Once fully frozen you can place them in a zip lock bag and keep them in the freezer until you’re ready to bake them.
  9. TO BAKE: Pre heat oven to 325 degrees. Place cookies on parchment lined cookie sheets with at least 3 inches between them. Place in preheated oven and bake for 16-20 minutes, until cookies are golden brown around the edges and still a little soft in the centers. Move to a rack to cool.

 

 

 

Buttercream

3/4 pound soft butter

1 pound powdered sugar

2Tbs heavy cream

1 t vanilla

 

  1. Beat soft butter in the bowl of standing mixer until homogenous.
  2. Turn mixer off and add powdered sugar.
  3. Add cream and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes.

 

Cookie Butter Buttercream

5 freshly baked chocolate chip cookies

3 T canola oil
1 recipe buttercream

 

  1. Process cookies in a food processor or blender until crumbly. Add enough oil to form a paste. If necessary warm water can be added in 1tbs increments to form a paste.
  2. Mix into buttercream
  3. Pipe into the center of baked and cooled cookie and top with a second cookie.
  4. Chill to set. Remove to room temperature to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A whole new world… Bananas. A recipe.

A few years ago I hit on one of those holiday recipes that became tradition. A sweet potato casserole that had one magical ingredient… banana. But it wasn’t just the banana that made it so special, it was the treatment of it, specifically roasting, that opened culinary doors for me. During my externship after pastry school I was first introduced to roasted ginger to add complexity of flavor to the final dish. Think Chef thought I was a bit crazy asking him why all the ginger was in the salamander.  I was mesmerized.So when I first came across the idea of roasted bananas I knew it had to be good. Great even.

No more waiting for bananas to go overripe to make banana bread. Roasting develops the natural sweetness of the bananas, and it softens the flesh so there is no real mashing to speak of. It takes mere minutes, and its this kind of trick, taking something one more level, that lifts a recipe from basic homemade to something really special.

Here I use the technique to make a ganache that becomes the filling for chocolate sandwich cookies. Very chocolatey, carmely and overall deliciously satisfying, these cookies are as popular on the table as that original sweet potato casserole, and disappear just as fast. I highly suggest you make them, but if you don’t, definitely roast a banana or two… put them in smoothies, bake them into cakes, or just spread them over ice cream. I love the chocolate coconut one I shared in this post. I promise, you won’t be sorry.

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Chocolate Banana Sandwich Cookies

Measurements are given in ounces, but their corresponding volume measurements are in parenthesis following.

1   Medium banana
5 oz   Semisweet Chocolate
4 fl oz   Heavy cream
½ cup   Sugar
½ tsp   Salt

10 oz (2 c)   All purpose flour
3 oz (1/3 c)   Cocoa Powder
¼ tsp   Baking powder
1 ½ tsp   Salt
3 oz (¾ c)   Powdered sugar
4 oz (½ c +1Tbs)   Brown Sugar
6 oz   Unsalted butter, softened
3   Egg yolks
1 Tbs   Vanilla

Filling:

Make the filling first to allow it to set. To ensure success, make sure you have all your ingredients ready to go so you can quickly move through the process and not over cook the caramel.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Poke a few small holes in the banana and roast it skin on, on the rack of the oven for a few minutes until blackened all over.  When cool enough to handle, remove the pulp from the skin and mash thoroughly with a fork.  Let cool.

Chop chocolate finely and place in a medium size heat-proof bowl.

Using the ½ cup of sugar, make a dry caramel.  Heat a light colored medium saucepan over medium high heat.  When hot, sprinkle the sugar over the bottom of the pan.  As it quickly melts and starts to caramelize, stir with a wooden spoon.  Keep adding the sugar in thin layers and stirring until you’ve used it all, all the sugar has dissolved and it’s turned a rich caramel color.    Immediately remove from the heat and carefully add the heavy cream to the caramel.  Be careful as this can spit and continue boiling.  Place the pot back over the heat and bring back to a boil, making sure to re-melt any caramel that may have set up when adding the cream.  Stir in the salt.  Pour the boiling caramel cream over the chopped chocolate.  Gently shake the bowl to make sure all the chocolate is submerged.  Let this sit for 5 minutes.   Whisk completely until silky and shiny. Stir in the mashed banana.  Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the chocolate.  Let sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours to set completely. Yours may set up faster or slower depending on the room temperature.  Its best to let it firm up at room temperature, but you can also place this in the refrigerator to speed setting but be careful to watch it so that it doesn’t set up to hard.

Cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, place the butter, brown sugar and powder sugar.  Cream with a paddle on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Mix in the yolks one at a time.  Mix in the vanilla.

Add flour/coco mix in two additions, mixing on low speed just to combine.  Divide the dough in half and place each half between two pieces of parchment.  Roll the dough between the parchment as thin as possible, about 1/8” thick.  Repeat with the remaining half.  Refrigerate or freeze until firm.   The dough may be rerolled.

Using a 2” round cutter, cut cookies from the chilled dough and place them on parchment lined cookie sheets with about a 1/2” of space between the cookies.  Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes until the tops are no longer shiny.   Cool completely.

Transfer the set chocolate banana cream to a pastry bag with a 1/2” tip.  Turn half of the cookies upside down.  Pipe about 1 teaspoon of filling on the upturned cookies.  Top with another cookie, pressing down gently to distribute the filling.

Makes 24 2” cookies.

Avoiding Dairy, but not ice cream…

My darling husband Jay is the kind of guy, like so many, that always wants to help, to fix things. One day, at the post production facility he works at, he saw parts of the film “Forks over Knives” and came home inspired.  He mentioned that I might want to think about avoiding milk in the hopes that my allergies might calm down.   He’s lovely, really, but he had no idea what he was saying when casually suggesting I give up milk.  I’m a pastry chef, and he’s a pastry hound, and giving up milk would really be giving up dairy, and that would be tough.  And, if I’m going to do it, by default he is too.

But the idea stuck around in my head and I started playing with the idea that dairy might be causing some issues for me.  Substituting for morning coffe is no big deal, but other things were definitely harder.  After all, I created a mac and cheese soup!  I can’t say that I’m totally successful, but I have noticed some correlations and so I keep trying.

I have used coconut milk extensively, and know exactly how luscious, creamy, fatty and delicious it is.  I’ve whipped it, replaced heavy cream for ganache, used it in place of regular milk and so I wondered how it would be if used in an ice cream.   I was not disappointed.

Rich and delicious with no eggs in sight, canned coconut milk makes an amazing frozen treat.  Air doesn’t incorporate into it in the same was as in standard dairy based ice cream, so it clings to the tongue like a frozen pudding.  So luscious and satisfying  that my friend Nicole described it as orgasmic.  And if you knew her, you’d know she doesn’t throw that around lightly….

Unlike traditional ice cream, it freezes super hard, and melts slowly.  Once in the freezer, it will definitely need a quick blast in the microwave, or a rest on the kitchen counter to get back to scooping consistency.

I don’t miss the dairy… not even a little bit.

 

 

Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream

 

4 cups (32 oz)  full fat canned coconut milk

1 cup cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

2Tbs  cornstarch

pinch of salt

 

Combine 3 cups of coconut milk, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a sauce pan and heat until simmering.  Take care, the mixture is thick and prone to spitting.

Mix the other cup of coconut milk with the cornstarch and add this mixture to the simmering pan.   Cook this over medium high heat stirring constantly until a few bubbles appear.  Its important to cook it a bit to thicken further and cook out the raw cornstarch.
Chill the mixture overnight in the fridge or cool over an ice water bath.  When fully chilled, process the base in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions. It may still be  a bit soft after processing in the machine, but go ahead and package and store in the freezer.  To bring it back to scoopable texture, soften in the microwave in short bursts of 15 seconds or set out on the counter at room temperature
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a good kind of change…

In pastry school, one of my chef instructors was ex-military…. If I remember it correctly he was a sniper… though I might be inflating with the advancing years. Chef Sniper told us very early on, “I make pastry.  Pastry has sugar, white flour eggs and butter.  Don’t even ask me about replacing them. That’s not what I do.”  I agreed with him completely.

Do I still agree with Chef Sniper?  Hmmmmmm…. I was convinced of a few things…. For one thing, cakes have butter.  It’s flavor, structure, color, body….  It does so many things that it seemed sacrilege to me to think of doing it any other way.

I often say that everything I do is custom, right down to the flavors.  But generally I stop there. I’ve spent years refining my recipes, and it seems people really enjoy them.   I’ve learned the hard way, and from no less than Hugh Jackman, not to mess with a good thing.  So customization ended with flavor profiles.

Recently an incredibly lovely couple contacted me for their son’s birthday cake.  After we brainstormed a super fun pirate treasure cake, they mentioned that their son had a dairy allergy and asked if I could accommodate that.  Like I always do, I said yes, to worry about it later.

Intrigued I started testing immediately.  Yes, this is my idea of fun. Because it was more of a challenge, I was more worried about creating a yummy dairy free icing than the cake, so that’s where I began.  I tested soy, soy creamer, coconut milk….  So many yummy tests side by side.  I was blown away by how good they all were.  It was a matter of degrees, which I liked better.
I was even more surprised to have found my way to the most delicious chocolate cake I’d ever made!   So yummy that I served it in consultations without mentioning its special nature, and time after time, it was gobbled up.  An empty plate is a always a good sign.   So I switched.  I switched my chocolate cake to this new dairy free one.  I don’t always keep it dairy free, but you wouldn’t notice the difference either way.

Not everything is as easy to replace successfully as dairy is, and even that is not suitable for every kind of cake. Carved cakes require a different kind of structure in the cake than tiered ones. But I’m up for the next challenge.  Test me! Who knows what I’ll stumble on next…  And hearing from my lovely client that she loved the cake, as was so happy to have found options for her dairy challenged son that she couldn’t wait to order the next one.  And that’s just the best thing to hear.  And yes, Sugar Couture now makes dairy free cakes. And, might have a surprise for Chef Sniper.

Yummiest Ever Dairy Free Chocolate Icing

The best way to make this icing is to start it the day before so that it sets well.  It calls for solid coconut cream.  In full fat cans of coconut milk… Thai versions are the best…the rich fatty cream of the coconut milk will separate and float to the top. You’ll want to scoop this off and use only it, reserving the remaining coconut water for another use.   Avoid shaking the cans, to keep this cream in tact. If your can is emulsified, you can place it in the refrigerator and it should set up and solidify.

This batch will ice about 32 cupcakes.

16 oz             best quality semi sweet chocolate

13 oz              solid coconut cream

¼  tsp           salt

16 oz             powdered sugar

-Chop the chocolate finely, either by hand with a serrated knife or in a food processor. Place in a medium sized bowl.

-Scoop off the cream from the cans of coconut milk get 13 oz.  Place cream in a sauce pan and bring just to a boil over medium high heat.   You need to bring it to a boil for it to properly melt the chocolate, but you don’t want to boil it for any length of time.

-Pour the hot coconut cream over the finely chopped chocolate and let it sit for 5 minutes.   Add the salt… chocolate is always better with a bit of salt, and whisk the mixture until fully combined, luscious and glossy.

-Cover the top of the chocolate with a piece of plastic wrap touching the entire surface and let this sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours until firmly set.    If you simply can’t wait, you can refrigerate it a bit to help encourage the firming, but you don’t want it to get too hard or you’ll have to re-warm it and start over.

-When the chocolate is set, beat the powdered sugar into it to sweeten it up a bit.   Don’t add it all at once, but add to taste.  Depending on the strength of the chocolate you’ve used, it may need a bit more or less sugar.  If doing this on a mixer, take care not over beat it or the icing will stiffen and be difficult to use.  Use this immediately to ice cooled cakes or cupcakes, fill eclairs, or eat with a spoon… your call.

Financiers… and a Give Away!

Last week was a tease. A brief moment of the promise of fall, and as I do every year, I started to get ahead of myself. While I didn’t go so far as to pull the sweaters from hibernation, I did start to dream of dutch ovens and pressure cookers and all the hearty soup, stew and stocks that would soon be coming.

And of course, the beautiful week is followed up by the seventh or ninth or seventy ninth heatwave of the year, and so my dreams were set aside for a few more weeks. But since my oven is perpetually on, I thought I’d share a perfect in between season sweet, and hold a contest for the perfect baking molds for them, courtesy of the lovely people at cookware.com!

Financiers are just the most lovely of cakes. They are loaded with rich brown butter, and lightened by the addition of powdered sugar. Hearty, soft and delicate they also can pack in a lot of flavor, pretty much anything you choose. Inspired by a flavor combination I fell in love with on a trip to Belieze, these treats are bursting with coconut and bathed in a delicious banana chocolate ganache. These cakes are endlessly versatile. They can be baked in one large round or in adorable individual molds. The best part yet… extra batter can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, making freshly baked dessert available to you at a moments notice.


And to make these beautiful babies just as adorable as they can be, I’m giving away two silicone baking mold sheets from cookware.com. To enter, leave a comment under this post about your own autumn inspired culinary fantasies by 5pm Friday, September 3, 2010 and I’ll pick a winner, and announce them on Tuesday, September 7th.

Link

For the Financiers:
(Inspired by a recipe by Sherry Yard)

8 oz or 2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup coconut flour (Bob’s Red Mill is one brand)
3/4 cup cake flour
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
8 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 tsp natural coconut extract
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter in a sauce pan over medium high, and cook it until the milk solids start to brown. Watch it carefully to prevent it from burning. Like caramel, its really easy to go from brown deliciousness, to burnt as you blink. Its also best to use a lighter colored pot for this, so you can see the transformation. Set the butter aside to cool for at least a half hour. If the butter is too hot it will ruin the cakes, so definitely let it sit but don’t refrigerate it either. It needs to stay liquid.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the pans you’re using by spraying with pan spray, or butter and flour them. Silicone pans shouldn’t need more than a quick spray.

To amp up the flavor of the coconut flour, add it to a pan on the stove and toast it over high heat, stirring constantly to keep it toasting evenly and avoid burning it. It just takes a few moments to turn a warm toasted color. Let this cool. Sift the cooled coconut flour, cake flour and sugar and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer, and mix with the paddle attachment to combine. Combine the egg whites and extracts. Add this all at once to the flour mix and set to medium speed, mixing for 3 minutes.

Add the cooled butter all at once, scrapping down all those delicious brown bits, and mix for another 3 minutes. To make it easy to put into the individual sized pans, I transfer the mix to a pastry bag (plastic bag with the end cut off works just fine too) and fill the sections about 3/4 of the way up. Bake at 350 until just barely golden and set to to the touch… or the top bounces back when you touch the center of the cakes. I know you want times, and I’m sorry that I can’t provide them… every oven is different, pan size, type etc can all add or subtract from timing, so the best indicator to start to watch them is your nose. When you start to smell that delicious coconut flavor, its time to keep a close eye. You’ll be a better baker for it. Trust me.

When done, move them to a cooling rack, and unmold as soon as you can safely touch them.

The sauce:

4 oz heavy cream
4 oz best quality chocolate
1 large banana
1/8 tsp salt

Turn oven to 375. Poke banana a few times with the tip of a knife. Place it in the center of the oven and roast it until black…about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. If your bananas are very ripe, you can skip this step.

Heat cream in a small sauce pan till boiling. Pour boiling cream over chocolate and let this sit for 5 minutes. Then whisk this until the cream and chocolate combines fully, into a shiny chocolate mixture. Put the banana and salt into the bowl of the food processor… process until smooth, then add the chocolate and process until fully combined and smooth.

Pour the chocolate cream on the plates, and place the cake on top. If you’d like to make the garnish, take another banana, slice it and dip the slices into granulated sugar. Use a kitchen torch to brule the sugar. If you don’t have a torch handy, you can do this in a broiler, watching it carefully to prevent burning. Let them cool before touching them, then place on the tops of your cakes.