Chocolate Chip Cookies

October 29, 2014

A couple of years ago Chris Kimball came up with a variation on the classic Toll-house chocolate chip cookies. He called them “Perfect”. I first made them in 2010, and while I loved them I hardly considered them perfect. In the ensuing years, I’ve adjusted the recipe to my family’s desire for a classic chocolate chip cookie, backing away from some of Chris Kimball’s changes. For example, I’ve stopped browning the butter. The resulting nuttiness made the cookies taste delicious, but made them into something other than a classic chocolate chip cookie. I still melt the butter, because it makes the dough so easy to mix.

I added back 1/3-cup flour for thicker cookies (on the left)

I added back 1/3-to-1/2-cup flour for thicker cookies (on the left)

The other major change, I added back an extra 1/3 to 1/2-cup of flour. The original Toll House recipe calls for 2-1/4 cups flour. Chris Kimball’s original idea was to make larger, thinner cookies. See the photos for the side-by-side difference. While to cookies were fine on the first day, the flatter cookies get stale faster. Much to my children’s chagrin, I don’t let them eat them all in one day.

Comments:

  1. The recipe calls for 10-oz of chocolate chips, they are always sold in 12-oz bags. You can either save the 1/4-cup of chocolate chips (which will never go to waste) or add them to the cookies. My kids have NEVER complained, “Dad, these cookies have too many chocolate chips”.
  2. Chris Kimball’s original recipe called for 1-3/4 cups flour, in case you wanted to give it a try. All the other ingredients listed below are unchanged.
  3. For High-Altitude the cookies may spread too much in the oven. Chris Kimball says to use less sugar, increase oven temperature and decrease baking time.
  4. If you think that the cookies are too dry, Chris Kimball recommends adding an extra egg yolk.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $3.50 for 16 large cookies.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Small/Medium.
Start time 2:00 PM. Snack time 3:00 PM.

The Cook’s Illustrated original recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10-ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1-3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3-1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5-1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1-1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (10-ounces)

  1. Set a rack to middle of your oven and pre-heat oven 375-degrees. Cut parchment to match the size of two 18″x12″ baking sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking soda, whisk briefly and set aside.
  3. Set 10″ skillet over medium-high burner and melt 10 tablespoons of butter (leaving 4 tablespoons butter) for about 2 minutes. If desired, continue cooking and swirling skillet constantly for between 1 to 3 minutes until the butter becomes dark golden brown and smells nutty. Remove from burner and empty into a large heatproof bowl, adding 4 more tablespoons of butter into hot butter and stir until completely melted.
  4. Add granulated and brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl with the melted butter. Whisk until it becomes fully incorporated. Add 1 egg and extra yolk; whisk for about 30 seconds until it becomes smooth and there are no lumps of sugar. Allow to sit for 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat the resting and whisking process 2 more times until mixture becomes thick, smooth, and shiny.
  5. Stir in flour mixture with a stiff rubber spatula or wooden spoon for 1 minute, until it just combines. Stir in chocolate chips until evenly distributed and ensuring that no flour pockets remain.
  6. Divide dough into 16 portions, each portion is about 3 tablespoons (or you can use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2″ apart on parchment-lined baking sheets (you will have 8 dough balls per sheet unless you are using smaller baking sheets, which will require 3 batches).
  7. Bake them 1 tray at a time for between 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet 180-degrees half way through cooking. The cookies will be done when they become golden brown; the edges will begin to set but the centers will still be soft.
  8. Allow cookies to cook on a wire rack. Chris Kimball says to allow the to cool completely before serving (lol. Like that’s going to happen)
While thicker and softer, the same weight looks smaller

While thicker and softer, the same weight looks smaller

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Homemade Pumpkin Puree

October 17, 2014

One unshakable truisms in the kitchen is “that fresh is always better than canned”. While those ubiquitous Libby’s can say “100% pumpkin” and are seductively easy to use, its slight off flavor has always made me want to roast my own pumpkin. In past years, I’ve read that I need to find “sugar pumpkins” (whatever those are), which are 8-to-10″ in diameter and have a darker orange exterior compared to jack-o’-lantern pumpkins. Hmm. Is that really all I’ve got to go on? And the difference is important: Sugar pumpkin have more flavorful and denser flesh. They are drier, and thus take less time to cook.

IMPORTANT HALLOWEEN TIP. How to prevent squirrels from eating your pumpkins.

After paying extra attention this year, I did finally notice that a few markets are properly labeling them as “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins”. In my case, I found a 5-3/4 pound sugar pumpkin, which yielded 2 pounds of pumpkin puree. That’s enough to make two pies, and only required about 15 minutes of work (over the course of nearly 3 hours).

BTW, I am planning to use the same Pumpkin Pie recipe that I’ve used for the past 3 years. Based upon a simple tasting of the pumpkin puree, the flavors are much deeper and more flavorful. I’m sure that this will make for a 5-star pumpkin pie!

Comments:

  1. The pumpkin puree should be used within 4 days or frozen in an air-tight container (with parchment paper pressed onto the surface of the pumpkin) for up to 2 months.
  2. I did try to roast the pumpkin seeds, but didn’t pay close enough attention as they baked in the same hot oven as the pumpkin. They overcooked, but fortunately didn’t burn, which could have ruined the pumpkin puree.

Cost: $2.50.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 2:00 PM. Done at: 4:45 PM.

The Cook’s Illustrated original recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1 small sugar pumpkin

  1. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and preheat to 375-degrees.
  2. Cut pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Remove the seeds and pulp. Line a rimmed-backing sheet with parchment paper, and set pumpkin halves with the cut-side downwards.
  3. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes until the flesh can be easily pierced with a skewer. Flip the pumpkin over and roast for 30 minutes more.
  4. Scoop flesh from skin into a food processor, process until smooth. Unless you have a full-sized food processor, you will need to process one half at a time (i.e. in two batches).
  5. Drain the puree in a fine-mesh strainer, set over a bowl for 1 hour. Mine lost about 6 ounces of water.
  6. To test consistency, pack some of your puree into a small drinking glass and unmold it onto a plate. It should slump gently toward base but otherwise hold its shape. Loosen as necessary with drained liquid, or return puree to strainer and continue to drain it if it is too loose.
  7. Measure out puree into two 16-oz containers before freezing. A typical Libby’s can weighs 15-ounces.
  8. When you use cook with it, you should use it exactly as your would canned pumpkin.

Cookie Dough Ice Cream

July 9, 2014

I poured my heart into making my son a wonderful chocolate/coffee cookie-dough ice cream cake for his 15th birthday, but the regular cookie dough recipe turned much too hard when frozen. I have since experimented with a lot of different tricks and techniques, and am pleased to be able to offer some insight. I cut the flour down to 1 cup, and also tried to substitute liquids that remain softer when frozen; I omitted the egg whites, and used heavy cream which has less water. Also, I substituted vegetable oil in lieu of some butter to keep things soft. The butter that I did use, I browned to compensate for the substitution. The mini-chocolate chips also made the dough seem softer. The result is very good both in terms of texture and flavor. 4-stars, still a little room for refinements of the cookie dough.

Vanilla-bean, Cookie-Dough Ice cream cake

Vanilla-bean, Cookie-Dough Ice cream cake

The problem with using regular cookie dough is that it is meant to withstand the high-heat of an oven and then served either warm or at room temperature. When frozen, it becomes rock hard.

Comment:

  1. Be sure to use unsalted butter or the recipe will be too salty. If you must use salted butter, cut the salt down to 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. I used many of Chris Kimball’s techniques found here, but adapted them for the freezer.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $10
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time: 12:00. Dinner time: 5:00

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup packed dark brown sugar (6-1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
2 large egg yolk
1 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
1 cups semisweet mini- chocolate chips (6 ounces)

  1. Melt the stick of butter in 10” skillet over medium-high burner for 2 minutes, and continue cooking butter for about 4 more minutes, swirling pan constantly, until the butter becomes dark golden brown and has nutty aroma. Empty browned butter to large heatproof bowl using a heatproof spatula. Stir 1/4 cup vegetable oil into hot butter.
  2. Add brown sugar, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated.
  3. Add egg yolk and heavy cream. Whisk for 30 seconds until the mixture becomes smooth with no sugar lumps remaining. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:
1-1/4 cups of 2% milk.
1-3/4 cup heavy cream.
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar.
1/3 cup light corn syrup.
1/4 teaspoon salt.
6 egg yolks.
1 vanilla bean.
2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

  1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water; to be used as an ice bath after removing milk from stove-top. Place metal sheet pan in freezer.
  2. Add milk, heavy cream, about half the sugar (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons), 1/3 cup corn syrup and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a medium saucepan. Use a paring knife to cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, then use the back of the knife to scrape out vanilla seeds (caviar). Add both the caviar and the empty stalks to the saucepan.
  3. Warm over medium burner for 5 minutes until the mixture reaches 160°; stir occasionally to ensure that the sugar completely dissolves. Temporarily remove pan from heat to prevent the milk from boiling.
  4. Meanwhile in a small bowl, beat the yolks together with 1/4 cup sugar.  Never let your yolks/sugar sit for more than a few minutes. Temper the yolks by whisking in 1/2 cup of the 160° milk/cream. Then whisk in a second 1/2 cup to further temper.
  5. Add the milk/yolk mixture back in with the milk in the saucepan. Cook over medium burner until the mixture reaches 180°; stir constantly with heat-proof spatula. Cooking too long will scramble your eggs.
  6. While the mixture heats up, wash your medium bowl and place it in ice batch.
  7. When the mixture reaches 180°, immediately strain your mixture through a fine-meshed strainer into the medium bowl (discarding empty vanilla pods). The ice batch will allow the mixture to cool in about 30 minutes; stirring occasionally will help. Then place the bowl in freezer for about 1/2 hour to 1 hour to further reduce the temperature. The mixture will begin to freeze along the sides of the bowl, which you should scrape down to further reduce the temperature.
  8. Add mix into the ice cream machine’s canister. Churn for 30 minutes, or per manufacturer’s instruction.
  9. If making a cake, line your sheet pan with plastic wrap and lay ice cream in a roughly even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour. After an hour, use a rolling pin to work into an even layer. Freeze for at least 2 more hours before serving.
Cookie-Dough as a middle layer

Cookie-Dough as a middle layer


Fresh Strawberry Mousse

June 8, 2014

With strawberries at such a luscious peak, I was finally able to try out this recipe that I’ve been eying for a few months. By reducing some of the juices on the stove-top to concentrate the strawberry flavor, it definitely packs a strong strawberry punch. While I did not get the mousse like texture that I was expecting; my son said it was more like a smoothie; it was undeniably delicious. 4-stars as mousse, but 5-stars as an un-named dessert.

Beautiful strawberries for just $2/lb

Beautiful strawberries for just $2/lb

Comments:

  1. The only mistake I made in the recipe was that I added the softened gelatin to the main bowl instead of to the saucepan in Step 5. There is some chance that the lack of heat meant that the gelatin didn’t evenly distribute to the mousse, causing my textural problem. I will definitely make it again, and update this post (and rating) if that was truly the cause.
  2. There were no solids left in the strainer in Step 6; only seeds.
  3. The dessert takes about 1h15m to make, but more than half of that time is waiting. I use that time as an excuse to relax.

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $5.50.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 12:30 PM. Dinner time 6 PM.

Here is the original Cook’s Illustrated link to for this recipe. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today is as follows:

2 pounds strawberries
1/2-cup sugar
Pinch salt
1-3/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream

  1. Cut cream cheese into 8 pieces and allow to soften on the counter-top.
  2. Wash and hull all the strawberries replacing back in plastic containers. For garnishing, dice enough strawberries into 1/4″ dice to yield 1 cup (5-1/4 ounces). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. In two batches (three batches if your food processor is on the smaller side), pulse remaining strawberries 6 to 8 times until 1/4″ to 1/2″ pieces; some pieces will be larger than others. Empty strawberries into a medium bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. Cover bowl and allow to stand at room temperature for 45 minutes; stir occasionally. Do NOT clean food processor.
  4. Strain the strawberries through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl, within 1 minute you should have rendered 2/3 cup of juice. Measure out 3 tablespoons juice into a separate small bowl and sprinkle with 1-3/4 teaspoons gelatin. Allow gelatin to soften for 5 minutes.
  5. Put remaining juice into a small saucepan and reduce over medium-higher burner for 10 minutes, until it measures just 3 tablespoons. Remove from heat and add the softened gelatin mixture, stirring until dissolved. Add softened cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Empty into large bowl.
  6. Meanwhile while the juice is reducing, process fruit in food processor for 15 to 20 seconds until smooth. Again, strain the puree though your fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing down on the solids with a spatula. You should have 1-2/3 cup of puree. Add the puree to the juice/gelatin mixture and whisk together until combined. Discard the solids from the strainer.
  7. Use a standing mixer to whisk cream for 1 minute on medium/low until foamy. Increase to high and whip until soft peaks (2 to 3 minutes), then gradually ass 1/4 sugar and whip until stiff peaks (about 1 to 2 more minutes).
  8. Whisk cream into strawberry mixture until there are no more white steaks. Portion into individual serving bowls and chill for at least 4 hours (up to 48 hours).
  9. Garnish with diced strawberries and serve.

Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake

March 15, 2014

I’ve been making ice cream cakes for my sons’ birthdays for the past 4 years. Each year I learn something new, and this post represents my cumulative knowledge. This year I incorporated cookie dough into the cake, not only including chunks of cookie dough into the ice cream, but also including an entire layer of solid cookie dough sandwiched between two layers of ice cream. The theory of the cake was genius, lol, but the theory turned out to be better than the execution. I now realize that regular cookie dough turns much too hard when frozen. This post does not contain the secret to retained dough-like consistency at ice cream temperatures. I suspect it is a combination of, (1) reducing the flour, (2) adding heavy cream, (3) switching some of the butter for oil. I will keep you posted when I find the answer.

Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake

Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake

While the details are below in the recipe section, I also wanted to give a high-level overview to help plan the multi-day project. A two-level cake takes at least 3-to-4 days, and a three-level cake takes between 6-to-7 days. This is because most modern home ice cream machines require 2-to-3 days between batches. The sleeve needs to freeze-solid, which recharges the machines ability to freeze the custard into ice cream.

  • Day #1, is certainly the longest day, requiring about 3 hours. First make the cookie dough, and pat out into a thick 9″-to-10″ disk; wrap in plastic and refrigerate. After washing your bowls, make the first batch of ice cream. Prepare you custard and while it is chilling, use a rolling-pin to flatten your cookie dough, then invert your springform pan and press down to mark the required shape, and cut using a paring knife. Freeze the cookie dough disk, and break the trimmings into small chunks; freezing the chunks as well. Process the custard in your ice cream machine, adding half the frozen cookie dough chunks in the last 5 minutes of processing.
  • Day #3 also takes about 3 hours, but requires much less work. This is just a straight ice cream day. Prepare you custard, chill it down, process, adding the frozen cookie dough chunks in the last 5 minutes of processing.
  • Day #4 or 5. Frost the cake using 1 bottle of Magic Shell.

Lessons learned about making ice cream cakes:

  1. The secret to making spectacular ice cream is two-fold: (1) reduce the amount of water as much as possible; e.g. only egg yolks, never egg whites, and (2) increase the fat content. That’s the “secret” of Haagan-Dazs. Really, it’s no secret. Just look at the nutritional information on the side of the package; 18 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving, compared to an industry standard closer to 7 to 8 grams.
  2. Leave your cake uncovered in the freezer for no more that 2 minutes. Any longer and you run the risk of ice particles marring your week-long project. The plastic wrap should be right up against the cake with as little air as possible between the cake and plastic wrap. By the way, the more you open your freezer door the more moisture will enter your freezer and the more protection your cake will need.
  3. Complete the illusion of a real cake by making a slight dome of the final layer.
  4. Use a spring-form pan to shape the cake. Layering each batch of ice cream by lightly pressing into an even layer. Run a paring knife along the sides to make it easier to remove.
  5. If you plan to move the cake from the spring-form-pan-disk, then put a disc of parchment at the bottom of the pan before the first layer of ice cream. I put the disk in this time. but ended up keeping in on the spring-form-pan-disk.
  6. While the cake cost me just $10, that’s because quarts of heavy cream went on sale for 1/2 price. I was able to buy 1/2 gallon of heavy cream for just $4.80 of which I used 1-1/2 quarts for this cake.
  7. I topped the cake with Magic Shell to simulate the icing. Next time I want to work out an improved version that will provide a nicer finish. Plus the magic shell is rather expensive ($5.50 for two bottles) and the finished coating is too thin.
  8. If using Magic Shell be sure to warm and shake exceptionally well.  The trick to applying icing to the sides is to hold your rubber spatula against the side of the cake, squeeze a little Magic Shell between the cake and the spatula and work it upwards to form an even coating. It takes a little practice.
  9. As written, Chris Kimball’s instructions require 1 large and 3 medium mixing bowls. I’ve reworked the logistics of making the chocolate ice cream because I only have 1 large and 1 medium mixing bowl; the small bowl in step 4 can be any small bowl.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15.
How much work? Medium
How big of a mess?  Large but spread over many days.
Started: Monday. Ready: Saturday.

Cookie Dough:
2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (11-1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1-3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3-3/4 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5-1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1-1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (8 ounces)

  1. To reduce the risk of salmonella, bring a pan of water up to a boil. Add cold eggs to boiling water for a scant 30 seconds.
  2. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Add 14 tablespoons butter to large heatproof bowl and melt/soften in microwave for 1m25s.
  4. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and the extra yolk, then whisk for 30 seconds until smooth until no limps of sugar remain.  Allow mixture to sit for 3 minutes, then whisk again for another 30 seconds. Repeat the resting/whisking two times more.
  5. Use a wooden spoon to combine flour mixture for 1 minute until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips ensuring that no pockets of flour remain.
  6. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes so that dough becomes stiffer.
  7. Empty dough out onto a large cutting board. Use a rolling-pin to flatten into a large 10″-to-11″ circle. Overturn your springform pan and push into cookie dough, which will mark the correct circumference. Use a paring knife to cut away the extra dough, leaving a perfect circle.
  8. Use a large knife to separate the dough from the cutting board. Break the cookie dough trimmings into at least 40 pieces.
  9. Cover both disk and trimmings with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to use.

Chocolate Cookie Dough Ice Cream (Layer 1):
8-oz dark chocolate
1-1/4 cups whole milk (10 oz)
1-1/2 cups heavy cream (11-1/2 oz)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water; to be used as an ice bath after removing from stove-top in step 8. Put your springform pan into the freezer. If you don’t want to serve the final cake on the bottom disk of your springform pan, then cut a piece of parchment and line the bottom of your pan.
  2. Put a medium heat-proof bowl over a pan of nearly-simmering water. Break your chocolate into large chunks and melt completely while occasionally stirring. Allow to partially cool.
  3. Add milk, heavy cream, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar to medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat for 5 minutes until the mixture reaches 160°; stir occasionally to ensure that the sugar completely dissolves. Remove pan from heat until Step 6 to prevent the milk from boiling.
  4. Meanwhile in a small bowl, beat the yolks together with 1/4 cup sugar. Add the eggs to the melted chocolate and mix until well combined.
  5. Temper the yolks by whisking in 1/2 cup of the warmed milk/cream. Then whisk in a second 1/2 cup to further temper.
  6. Add the milk/yolk/chocolate mixture back in with the milk in the saucepan. Cook over medium burner until the mixture reaches180°; stir constantly with heat-proof spatula. Cooking too long will scramble your eggs.
  7. While the mixture heats up, wash your medium bowl and place it in ice batch, and get your strainer handy.
  8. When the mixture reaches 180°, immediately strain your mixture into the medium bowl. The ice batch will allow the mixture to cool to room temperature quickly; stirring occasionally will help it cool. Add vanilla extract, cover, and freeze for 1 hour. Be sure the mixture is below 38°.
  9. Add mix into the ice cream machine’s canister. Churn for 35 minutes, or per manufacturer’s instruction. With about 5 minutes remaining, add half your froze cookie dough chunks so that they become evenly distributed.
  10. Empty finished ice cream in springform pan. Scrape out as much as possible using  a rubber spatula. Work to evenly smooth out ice cream. Cover with plastic wrap and use the bottom of a metal 1-cup measuring cup to work into a smooth, even layer.
  11. Add frozen cookie dough disk on top of ice cream. Cover with a clean sheet of plastic wrap and gently press dough into ice cream. Freeze for 3 days until ready to add the next layer.
Two layers down, one to go

Two layers down, one to go

Cookie Dough Ice Cream:

2 Cup heavy cream (1 pint)
1-1/2 whole milk
1/2 cup ground coffee or espresso beans.
1-1/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoon vanilla.

  1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water; to be used as an ice bath after removing cream from stove-top.
  2. Add heavy cream, milk, coffee grounds and 1 cup sugar to medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat for 5 minutes until the mixture reaches 160°; stir occasionally to ensure that the sugar completely dissolves. Temporarily remove pan from heat to prevent the milk from boiling.
  3. Meanwhile in a small bowl, beat the yolks together with 1/4 cup sugar. Be sure not to let the egg yolks and sugar sit for any length of time; after 5 minutes the combination will get hard. Temper the yolks by whisking in 1/2 cup of the 160° cream. Then whisk in a second 1/2 cup to further temper.
  4. Add the yolk mixture back in with the cream/coffee in the saucepan. Cook over medium burner until the mixture reaches180°; stir constantly with heat-proof spatula. Cooking too long will scramble your eggs.
  5. While the mixture heats up, wash your medium bowl and place it in ice batch, and get your strainer handy.
  6. When the mixture reaches 180°, immediately strain your mixture into the medium bowl. Wash the strainer and then strain the mixture two more times to remove as much of the grounds as possible.
  7. The ice batch will allow the mixture to cool to room temperature quickly; stirring occasionally will help it cool. Add vanilla extract, cover, refrigerate for 3 hours. Alternatively freeze for 1 hour; just be sure it’s below 40°.
  8. Add mix into the ice cream machine’s canister. Churn for 30 minutes or how ever long your ice cream machine recommends. If this were not part of a cake recipe, while ice cream churns,  I would normally pre-freeze a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and the ice cream’s final container/bowl.
  9. Empty into spring-form pan (or spread in thin, even layer of pre-chilled baking sheet). Cover with plastic wrap, making sure to leave as little air as possible, and freeze for 2 to 2-1/2 hours before serving.
There is a layer of cookie dough between the chocolate and coffee

There is a layer of cookie dough between the chocolate and coffee


Valentine’s Day Truffles

February 16, 2014

I made these truffles once before. While the cocoa powder coating was a disaster, my main complaint was the unbearable monotony of having 64 exactly-equal truffles. So this year for Valentine’s Day, I pulled out all the stops and made more than a dozen variations. They turned out beautiful, even though I sat home alone on Valentine’s Day (well, alone with my two sons). The variety started with two base fillings; (1) the chocolate ganache in the original recipe, and (2) a peanut butter filling. I formed both into round balls, and I describe below how I turned these two varieties into at least a dozen unique truffles. Overall, the truffles need to be made in two phases, (1) prepare the ganache/peanut butter balls (about 3 hours total), and (2) the final assembly (about 1-1/2 hours). The chocolate mixture needs at least 2 hours between the steps, and the peanut butter needs to freeze solid. Of course, they turned out to be a perfect 5-star.

A bucket of truffles

A bucket of truffles

It was important for me to try to make a lot of unique truffles. Here’s how I did it. For the chocolate ganache, I used to following techniques to make 10 different varieties.

  1. Cocoa powder coating.
  2. Rolled in chopped nuts.
  3. Dipped in Milk chocolate and placed on parchment paper to form round balls.
  4. Same at #3, but using Dark chocolate.
  5. Made cups, putting a dab of melted Milk and/or Dark Chocolate in the bottom of a cup, putting a small truffle, then another dab of chocolate.
  6. Same as #5, but top with some chopped nuts. Between #5 and #6 there were 4 difference variations.
  7. I used a toothpick to decorate some of the milk chocolate truffles with melted dark chocolate.

For the Peanut Butter, I used to following techniques to make 4 different varieties.

  1. Dipped in Milk chocolate and placed on parchment paper to form round balls.
  2. Same at #1, but using Dark chocolate.
  3. I made classic peanut butter cups, both with milk and dark chocolate.

Comments / Issues:

  1. Below there are three parts. I would recommend preparing the first three parts the night before you plan to do the finally assembly. The Peanut Butter balls especially need to be frozen solid of they will not slice. The next day, be sure to remove them from the freezer at the last-minute, and only in batches of about 7 to 8.
  2. Microwaving at 50% power on my counter-top microwave was not enough. I needed 80% power.
  3. The recipe says to use an 8″x8″ pan, yielding 64 pieces. I used a 7″x7″ pan and got 49 slightly-larger pieces. If you are using 1-1/2″ cups, then I would suggest the slightly larger size.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $20.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 12:00 PM. Dinner time 4:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon espresso powder (optional)
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  1. Lightly spray a 7″-to-8″ square baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Prepare a parchment sling by folding 2 sheets of parchment so that they are as wide as the inside of baking dish. Arrange to two sheets of parchment perpendicular to each other, with extra hanging over edges of pan. Firmly push into corners and up sides of pan to that the parchment is flush to baking dish.
  2. Roughly chop the chocolate and put in a medium microwave proof bowl. Microwave at 50% power (or 80% for a counter-top microwave) for 2 to 3 minutes; stirring once or twice. The chocolate should be mostly melted, but there should remain a few small pieces of chocolate. Set aside.
  3. In a Pyrex measuring cup, microwave cream for 30 seconds until it is warm to touch. Add corn syrup, vanilla and the pinch of salt; stirring to combine. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit, without stirring, for 3 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, microwave butter for 20 second to soften and cut into 8 pieces.
  5. After 3 minutes, use a wooden spoon to combine cream into chocolate, then add small butter cubes one at a time, until everything becomes fully incorporated and smooth.
  6. Empty ganache into the prepared baking dish, and use a rubber spatula to even out. Allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
  7. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days)

Peanut Butter Filling:
16-to-18 ounce jar of creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder for dusting your hands.

  1. Lightly spray a 4″x8″ loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Prepare a parchment sling by folding 2 sheets of parchment so that they are as wide as the inside of loaf pan. Arrange to two sheets of parchment perpendicular to each other, with extra hanging over edges of pan. Firmly push into corners and up sides of pan to that the parchment is flush to the pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the peanut butter, dry milk, and sugar until combined; you should have a stiff mixture.
  3. Empty peanut butter mixture into the prepared loaf pan, and use a rubber spatula to even out. Freeze for at least 3 hours.
  4. Grip overhanging parchment and lift to remove from loaf pan. Cut into thirty-two 1″ squares (8 rows by 4 rows).
  5. Keeping remaining squares as frozen as possible, work in batches of 8. Dust your hands in cocoa powder to prevent the peanut butter from sticking to your hands. Roll into round balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Cover balls with plastic wrap and freeze again for at least 2 hours. (I’m talking about cooking! lol)

Final Assembly:
1 pound Milk Chocolate
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (1-1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar (1/2 ounce)
1-1/2″ mini cup-cake liners
1 pound Bittersweet Chocolate

  1. Break milk chocolate into rough chunks, and melt in a bowl set over simmering water (later you will melt the dark chocolate in step 8).
  2. Prepare the coating by sifting the cocoa and sugar through fine-mesh strainer into large bowl. Sift again into a pie plate and set aside.
  3. Wipe out large bowl from previous step with paper towel, chop nuts, and place in the freshly wiped bowl. Set aside.
  4. Grip overhanging parchment and lift ganache. Cut into sixty-four 1″  squares (8 rows by 8 rows). If the ganache cracks while you are slicing, allow to sit at room temperature for about 5 to 10 minutes before proceeding.
  5. Use the dusting powder to cover your hands so that theganache doesn’t stick to your hands. Use your hands to roll each square into a round ball, re-applying dusting powder as necessary to keep it from sticking to your hands. I would suggest rolling in big circles between your hands. If at first they don’t roll, eventually the warmth from your hands will allow you to succeed.
    1. For those truffles that you want to coat in powder, transfer to pie plate and evenly cover with powder, then lightly shake to remove excess powder.
    2. For those truffles that you want to cover in nuts, more them around bowl with chopped nuts, pressing the nuts firmly
    3. For those truffles that you want for milk chocolate balls, drop in melted chocolate and fish out using a fork. Tilt to allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the pan, then transfer to parchment lined backing sheet. After you get about 6 to 8 balls, put them into freezer for 1 minute to set the chocolate.
    4. If some of your squares of ganache are small, then make in mini cup cake wrapper. Put a dab of melted Chocolate in the bottom of a cup, putting a small ganache ball, then another dab of chocolate to top. Sprinkle some of them with left-over chopped nuts.
  6. Working in batches of 6 to 8 peanut butter balls, cut those that you want to make into peanut butter cups in half, and leave the remaining peanut butter balls un-sliced.
    1. For those truffles that you want for milk chocolate peanut butter balls, drop in melted chocolate and fish out using a fork. Tilt to allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the pan, then transfer to parchment lined backing sheet. After you get about 6 to 8 balls, put them into freezer for 1 minute to set the chocolate.
    2. For those truffles that you want peanut butter cups; Put a dab of melted chocolate in the bottom of a cup, putting a half-ball with the flat side upward. Add another dab of chocolate to top, and smooth so that the top is flat. I would suggest doing the peanut butter cups last, so that you know how much extra chocolate you have. That will dictate how full you fill the cups.
  7. Return all unused peanut butter balls to the freezer.
  8. Break dark chocolate into rough chunks, and melt in a same bowl containing the remaining milk chocolate. Continue to simmer pot of water, ensuring that the water doesn’t boil.
  9. As the dark chocolate melts, dip the tip of a toothpick into the melted dark chocolate and draw some designed some of the finished milk chocolate truffles; especially 5.3 and 5.4 (nut-less).
  10. Assemble the remaining truffles as you did in step 5 and 6, saving the peanut butter cups until last (and fill to a level based upon available chocolate).
  11. Cover container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week. Let truffles sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Old-Fashioned Christmas Chocolate Fudge

December 23, 2013

I have tried to make fudge in the past, but have never been successful and always found it extremely fussy. Chris Kimball has devised an easy 15-minute fudge, which I’ve very successfully made a few times; see here and here. Simultaneously to Chris Kimball publishing his easy 15-minute fudge recipe in 2007, he also published this old-fashioned fudge recipe. My years of successfully following Chris Kimball’s recipe has given me renewed confidence in making traditional Christmas fudge; candy thermometer and all. Unfortunately, one small mis-read left me with burnt fingers and grainy fudge.

Delicious, but barely worked out

Delicious, but near catastrophe

Overall, fudge making is a slow process, and that slowness is supposed to ensure a smooth texture. I remember reading somewhere that Chris Kimball tested 1,000 pounds of chocolate to come up with this recipe, which he claimed to have perfected. First off, you need to be sure you have the right equipment: candy thermometer, pastry brush, wooden spoon, Dutch oven and a 13”x 9” baking dish (117 square-inches). I had a 14″x10″ baking dish (140 square-inches), so I used cardboard to reduce the volume by 20%. (see photo at bottom of post).

Most things in the recipe were clear, except for two crucial steps. In Step 7, I misread his instructions and didn’t realize that I was supposed to dunk the syrup-covered handle into the ice batch to cool. Instead, I burner my fingers and never got the syrup to form any kind of ball. Finally, I removed the pot from the stove-top when the temperature read 242-degrees, because that was already too hot. Secondly, step 9 and 10 were extremely unclear as to how long I should lift and stir fudge. After just 5 minutes (was expecting 8 to 12 minutes), my fudge had seized up and I had to re-heat it to get it to spread into my pan. The time period between glossy and solid was about 30 seconds. I’m assuming that the issue was because I over-heated the fudge because I misread step 7.

Overall, I can only give the results 2-stars, because of the dry, grainy texture.

UPDATE ON 12/24: By putting each piece of fudge in the microwave for ten seconds, the texture becomes soft and the Fudge jumps from 2-to-4-stars. Not good enough to give away to friends and neighbors, but good enough to eat myself.

Comments:

  1. This recipe makes 4 pounds of fudge. Fudge is one of those recipes that you cannot double.
  2. I found this website filled with helpful fudge-making hints.

Rating: 2-stars.
Cost: $10
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 2:00 PM. Ready at: 7:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces unsweetened chocolate (3 bars)
4-1/2 cups granulated sugar (31-1/2 ounces; 1/2 oz under 2 pounds)
1-1/2 cups light brown sugar (10-1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon table salt
3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
2-1/4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  1. Cut your butter into 1/2″ cubes. Roughly chopped  your chocolate and divide into two equal 6 ounce parts.  Place butter cubes and 6 ounces chocolate in freezer.
  2. To keep your utensils clean during the preparation, fill a large saucepan 3/4 full with water and heat on medium-low burner until bubbles just begin to form, then reduce burner to low to keep water warm. Put your candy thermometer, pastry brush, and wooden spoon in warm water. Prepare a medium bowl with ice and cold water, which you will also use to keep your utensils clean. Later, you will need to fill sink 1″ deep with room-temperature tap water, so make sure the sink is clean.
  3. Fold an 18” piece of aluminum foil and fold it lengthwise into an 8” by 18” strip. Lay foil into 13″x9″ baking dish. Pushing foil into corners and sides allowing the excess to hang over the pan ends. Next fold a 14” long piece of aluminum foil (If foil is more than 12″ wide fold it to fit pan) and put in pan perpendicular to first sheet of foil.
  4. Put a large Dutch oven over medium burner and heat sugars, salt, chocolate syrup, milk, and remaining unfrozen 6 ounces chocolate for 6 to 12 minutes, constantly stirring with wooden spoon, until the chocolate melts. Clean wooden spoon with hot running tap water to remove all sugar crystals, then set spoon in container filled with ice water with the handle-side down.
  5. Using pastry brush to wash down any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pot, dipping brush back into hot water before wiping down another part of pot Continue washing down the sides of pot until no sugar crystals remain. Attach candy thermometer to side of pot and continue to cook until syrup boils; about 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Boil sugar for 30 minutes until it reaches 236 degrees, then start to test for doneness. Avoid stirring the fudge once it has reach the boiling stage, unless you notice that a thick edge of syrup that is not boiling, briefly stir the syrup with a clean wooden spoon.
  7. To test for doneness, dip the wooden spoon’s handle (from ice bath) into syrup, sweep and twist a few times to coat the end of the handle times until enough chocolate adheres to the spoon handle. Dunk into ice bath and wait 5 to 10 seconds to cool down (twist the handle as necessary so that syrup doesn’t fall off), then gather the syrup with your fingers and attempt to roll up into a ball. The syrup will be done when it forms a soft ball that will flatten when lightly pressed between two fingers. Continue to cook until syrup forms a soft ball, checking every 2 degrees. (Total cooking time should be about 40 minutes). Meanwhile, make sure your kitchen sink has 1″ of room-temperature tap water.
  8. Remove Dutch oven from burner and immediately put into prepared sink. Sprinkle frozen butter cubes, chocolate and vanilla over the fudge. Cool in sink for 5 minutes, then move to counter and allow to cool, without stirring, for another 25 to 35 minutes until the fudge reaches 110 to 120 degrees.
  9. Use the wooden spoon to combine all the ingredients, then once or twice clean the perimeter of the pot. Lift a spoonful of mixture 1 foot above pot and allow to drip back into the pot, repeating the lifting process 5 times. Allow to rest for 1 minute.
  10. Repeat the lifting/resting process in step 9 for between 8 to 12 minutes until the fudge loses its shine and becomes difficult to stir.
  11. Quickly empty the fudge into the prepared pan and use a spatula to spread into an even layer. If the fudge sets too soon and crumbles when you try to spread it into the pan, reheat it over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until some of the sugar melts and the fudge becomes more fluid.
  12. Cool fudge at room temperature for 4 hours until it becomes firm. Use the foil overhang to remove the fudge from the pan and cut into squares. Tightly wrapped in waxed paper or plastic, the fudge can be stored for up to 2 weeks in a cool cabinet or 3 months in the freezer.

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