Double Chocolate Fudge Cookies

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This is one of my favorite cookie recipes.  I like to have cookie dough on hand in the freezer, because you never know when you might need a quick dessert.  (Ironically, though I am a pastry chef, I always forget to prepare dessert for company.)  I like to use ebony, or extra dark cocoa powder. It has long been available to chefs (it’s the one they use in Oreo cookies), and happily it’s now available to home cooks.   I also like bittersweet chocolate chunks, but you can use any chunk you like. Milk, white, butterscotch—even carob. (Although what’s the point of that?) You can use any nut you want, too. Come to think of it, this recipe is really just a chocolaty suggestion.

Ingredients

1 cup pecan pieces

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks, 8 ounces), softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoon unrefined salt – try Bali pyramid, Maldon, Portuguese or Spanish flor di sal, or a salt infused with chocolate, espresso, vanilla, or matcha

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup extra dark cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate chunks

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spread the pecans out onto a dry baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until fragrant and toasted. Cool completely.
  1. Coat baking sheet with pan spray and set aside. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugars until smooth and lump free. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, the eggs one at a time, and vanilla, stirring to incorporate thoroughly. Stir in cocoa, baking powder, then the flour in 2-3 increments. Fold in chocolate and cooled nuts.
  1. Using an ice cream scoop, or two spoons, drop walnut-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet 1-inch apart. Sprinkle the top with remaining salt, and bake for 12-18 minutes, until firm. Cool completely, and store airtight.

Variations

Regular Chocolate Chip – If you guessed that this is just a modified chocolate chip cookie recipe, you’re right. If you want to get back to the original, omit the cocoa powder and make up that difference with more flour. Then try finishing with Murray River, Black Lava, or Black Diamond salt.

Chocolate Medley – Use whatever kind of chocolate chip you like. Or use your favorite candy or chopped up candy bar. Or omit the extra chocolate all together and use dried cherries—not that anyone will be happy about that switch. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Mexican Chocolate – To simulate the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate in a cookie, add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of cayenne or other hot chile powder, use chopped Ibarra or other Mexican style chocolate, and finish with Manzanillo, or salt infused with chiles.

 

Classic Salted Chocolate Soufflé

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Souffles are the classic pastry phobia. But there is no reason not to try making them at home. Even a fallen soufflé tastes amazing. For best results, have patience, and some good, straight-sided ramekins. For me, this roux based soufflé has always been the most successful. It’s a very stable base that can be used for a number of different flavors, including savory cheese. See the Variations for some ideas.

Ingredients

¾ cup butter (6 ounces) unsalted butter, plus an extra tablespoon for the ramekin

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup milk

½ cup granulated sugar, divided

2 large egg yolks

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 ½ teaspoon unrefined salt – try Maldon, Cyprus Flake, any fleur de sel, or a salt infused with rosemary, orange, rose, vanilla, chocolate, or espresso

5 egg whites

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Combine milk and sugar in a small saucepan, and heat to a simmer. Stir until sugar is melted, then set aside. Melt chocolate over a double boiler (or in a microwave, stopping to stir every 15 seconds until melted), then set aside. Coat four 8-ounce ramekins very lightly with melted butter, then with granulated sugar, tapping out the extra. Set aside.
  1. Melt 6 ounces of the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the flour, and whisk it in until it is all absorbed. (This is a roux.) Slowly drizzle in milk, while whisking, to form a smooth paste. (This is the base for béchamel sauce.) Remove from heat and stir in egg yolks, one at a time. Add chocolate, 1 teaspoon salt, and mix until well incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl.
  1. In a clean bowl, using a standing mixer, handheld beaters, or a balloon whisk, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold a third of the stiff egg whites into the chocolate base to thin it out, then add the rest and carefully fold together until uniform in color. (Do not fold too much, or you will deflate the air in the egg whites.)
  1. Fill prepared ramekins all the way to the rim. Wipe off any drips on the rim, place them on a baking sheet, and sprinkle the top with a bit more salt. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, until risen well above the rim. (The risen sides of the soufflé will look dry when it is ready.) Remove from oven, carefully and transfer ramekin to a napkin lined plate (to keep the ramekin from sliding as it is carried to the table). Serve immediately, and offer your guests accompanying bowls of whipped cream, fresh berries, or complimentary sauces.

Variations

Salted Caramel – Omit the ½ cup of sugar, and replace the bittersweet chocolate with an equal amount of caramel sauce. Use a big pyramid flake salt, or a smoked salt.

Fruity– Reduce the sugar to ¼ cup, and replace the bittersweet chocolate with an equal amount of fruit jam, marmalade, or lemon curd. Try a salt infused with citrus, rosemary, rose, or chipotle.

Pumpkin – Replace the bittersweet chocolate with an equal amount of pumpkin puree, and add about 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice with the egg yolks. Try Persian Blue here, or a salt infused with allspice, nutmeg, or cinnamon.

Cheese – Replace the sugar on the inside of the ramekin with finely grated parmesan cheese. Omit the sugar from the recipe, and replace the chocolate with an equal amount of grated cheese. Add herbs, and up to ½ cup of other garnish, such as chopped ham or sautéed mushrooms.   Try this with Murray River, smoked salt, or a salt infused with herbs, shitake, or truffles.

 

Salted Truffles

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Chocolate_Caramel_Fudge

 

Truffles are nothing but ganache, which is a basic culinary technique every cook should know. It’s super easy, and super-versatile. Once you master it (which doesn’t take long) the possibilities are endless.  The recipe is nothing new. Here, though, I finish them with a pinch of artisan salt, which has replaced the coating of cocoa powder and drizzles of chocolate that have long been standard.  The sweet-salt burst is unforgettable, and irresistible.

This is just a snippet from my upcoming book SALT: The Essential Guide to Cooking with the Most Important Ingredient in Your Kitchen.  (You can buy it here –  B&N – and here Amazon ).

Ingredients

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, divided

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon unrefined salt – try a fine grind Himalayan, Bolivian, or Mongolian rock salt, any good flake salt, a smoked salt, or a salt infused with matcha, vanilla, bourbon, red wine, lavender, rose, sweet spice, or orange

1 cup heavy cream

Method

  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Place half in a clean dry bowl and set is aside. Place the other half in a bowl along with the butter, vanilla, and ½ teaspoon salt. Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. As soon as it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate-butter bowl. Shake the bowl so that that all the chocolate is submerged, then set aside, untouched, for 5 minutes.
  1. At the 5-minute mark whisk smooth.   Set the ganache aside to set. You can refrigerate it here is you are in a hurry. As soon as the ganache is firm, form it into small balls, either by hand, or using a 1/6-1/4 ounce ice cream scoop, and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Chill for 10 minutes.
  1. Melt remaining chocolate over a double boiler. Have at the ready a trivet, or something to set the hot pot on, a clean tray lined with parchment paper, and a few sheets of extra parchment paper. Remove the double boiler from the heat and set it on the trivet. Drop chilled truffles into the melted chocolate. Fish them out with a fork, then tap the fork on the edge of the pot, encouraging the excess chocolate to drip back into the pot. Now rub the fork along the extra sheets of parchment to clean the foot, and finally place on the clean, parchment lined tray. Immediately sprinkle with another tiny pinch of salt. Repeat with the remaining balls of ganache. Because the chocolate is not tempered, store these in the refrigerator until ready to serve. I like to serve them in small candy cups, or on a clean, dry salt block.

Variations

Dip-Free – instead of dipping the ganache balls in melted chocolate, you can serve them the original way, rolled in cocoa powder to simulate the dirt on the outside of the truffle fungus.   (Leave it to the French to make dirt appealing.) You can also roll it in powdered sugar, finely ground espresso beans, finely ground toasted nuts, or toasted coconut. You can even mix your salt into these powders for an amazing effect.

Spiced – There are a million other ways to flavor dark chocolate truffles, but with the salt I like to keep it simple. If you are really feeling exotic, though, try adding ½ teaspoon of cardamom, ground toasted anise, or your favorite chile powder.

 

Red, White and Blueberry Squares

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“God Bless America! I have a new Prez, and so do you! Congrats!”

I first posted this recipe in 2008.  It was a fantastic time.  Full of HOPE.  My kids were still at home, we had a new inclusive President, I was still running, and was training for the NYC marathon…so I was super thin.

Since then, both kids moved back east for college and jobs. My knees blew out and I am trying (in vain) to love swimming just as much.  And I have to muster all the strength I had for marathons to get through each day with any sort of hope for the future.

It’s grim in my world.

BUT–I actually do have a little hope.  I have begun participating in the process!  I just won a local caucus to become a Democratic Party Delegate for my region, in an attempt to usher the DNC towards it’s former greatness.  We’ll see if the little guy can make a difference.  I’m thinking, yes!

In honor of Inauguration Day (or in mourning for it, as the case may be) I give you a patriotic treat. You may need to use frozen fruit this time of year, but they will be sweet and tasty anyway, I promise.

These squares have a crisp and nutty oat base that is topped with cheese-cake and studded with sweet, ripe berries.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
6 TB. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 (8oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 TB. all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 pint fresh blueberries

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Coat a 9×13″ baking dish with pan spray. In a large bowl mix together oats, flour, brown sugar, walnuts, baking soda and salt. Add melted butter and stir to moisten. Press into prepared pan and bake 10 minutes, until lightly browned.
  2. Beat together cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. Mix in eggs, one by one, and vanilla. Spread on top of crust. Distribute berries evenly across the surface, and press into cheese gently. Bake 15-20 minutes, until cheese is set and just begins to brown. Cool completely, then chill at least 2 hours before cutting and serving.

Peachy Keen Variations: These squares work well with lots of fruits, including peaches, cherries and plums.
obama

So Long Mr President.  You have been an inspiration.

“Yes We Can … eat yummy snack cakes!”

Chess Pie

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The history of this pie is a bit mysterious and silly. Some say that the pie itself is so simple that when asked what kind of pie is baking, the bakers response was, “It’s just pie.” This, when sped up and slurred by lazy-tongued bakers, starts to sound like “jess pie” or “chess pie.” Whatever.

Another tale points out that the pie’s curdy texture is similar to cheese, and lazy-spelling bakers left out some “e’s”, forever labeling the pie as “chess.”

Neither explanation shines a very favorable light on the bakers in question.

I told you it was silly.

Silly but delicious. This pie is a perfect for beginners, because it is very hard to screw up, and easy to embellish. Add fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, or spices to add your personal touch. Or, just keep it as is … au naturelle.

So … once you have mastered pie dough, try this pie on for size.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 recipe Pie Dough, or Pâte Sucreé
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
2 TB. cornmeal
1/2 cup cream
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 TB. vanilla extract
4 oz. (1 stick) butter, melted

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325˚F. Line pie pan with a circle of pie or sucreé dough, crimp edges and blind bake for 20-30 minutes, until edges just begin to set. Cool completely, and remove pie weights.
  2. In a large bowl combine eggs, sugar, cornmeal, cream, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla. Mix well, then stir in butter. Pour into pre-baked pie shell and bake at 325˚F for 30-45 minutes, until lightly golden and just set. Chill completely before serving.

Summer Shortcakes

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Summer fruit is everywhere. It’s Fruit Galore! (If I was a Bond Girl, that would definitely be my name. That or Sticky Buns.)

A surplus of fruit means just one thing to me … shortcake.

This classic dessert has had many incarnations, but it began as a way to use up last night’s biscuits. I’ve seen it made with pound cake, sponge cake, cookies, scones and those doggy-dish shaped cakes they sell at the grocery store (along with that day-glo red gel goop I gather one is supposed to smear onto the fruit. Don’t do it people! That fruit has been good to you! It doesn’t deserve to be treated that way!)

My favorite way to shortcake is with fruit and cream sandwiched between a flaky, not-too-sweet biscuit. I start in the beginning of the summer with berries, until they go away.  Then I get creative.  Apricots, cherries, plums, figs.  When fall rolls around I turn to apples, pears, an even sweet pumpkin roasted to a caramelized perfection.  And in the lean fruit months, I switch into tropical gear, with grilled pineapple or mango.

Don’t be afraid to shed that creativity on your biscuit too.  Some of my favorite versions include roasted plums in a sage-pecan shortcake, mango and pineapple in coconut-macadamia shortcake, and dried fruit macerated in cognac in a gingerbread shortcake. Oh yeah!

And while you’re stretching your culinary creativity muscle, toss the fruit with a bit of sugar, Grand Marnier, herbs, citrus zest, or vanilla for a little something extra.

INGREDIENTS

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (you can substitute up to 1/2 cup of an alternative flour, such as whole wheat, corn meal, semolina, buckwheat, acorn or other nut–or you can substitute up to 2 tablepsoons of fine powdered flavoring, like matcha, rose dust, or instant espresso)
1/2 cup sugar, divided (this can be white, brown, date, coconut –what ever you like –it can even be a liquid sugar like honey, although best to add that with the milk)
1 TB. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 oz. butter, diced and chilled (if you are dairy free–there are many substitutes you can use, including solidified coconut oil)
2/3 cup buttermilk (or regular milk with a teaspoon of acid added–lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar–which is needed to activate the baking soda)
2 TB. vanilla extract, divided
2 TB. milk

2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 pints fresh summer fruit, rinsed, trimmed and sliced as necessary

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine buttermilk and 1 tablespoon vanilla and set aside. In a large bowl sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut-in chilled butter to pea-sized pieces with your fingertips or a pastry blender. Make a well in the center of the flour-butter mixture, pour in buttermilk and stir gently until just moistened. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured work surface and fold 7-8 times, just until it holds together. Roll to 1-inch thick and cut into 2 or 3 inch biscuits with circle cookie cutter. Place on the cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Whisk together yolk, milk, and brush it generously on top of each biscuit, and sprinkle with extra sugar for a crispy crust. Bake at 375˚F until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Whip cream to soft peaks with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Cut biscuits in half and sandwich fruit and whipped cream. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar and serve.

strawberry-shortcake
I’m pretty sure Rainbow Bright could kick Strawberry Shortcake’s @$$

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