chocolate pots de creme

I optimistically bought a container of fancy full-fat yogurt to replace dessert this week, thinking that a few days without cookies and cake would do me good. I didn’t plan for the extra couple of chocolate pots de crème that would need to get eaten, and I forgot that I wanted to bake cookies to bring to work one day this week. I have good intentions of skipping dessert, but my love of baking is always my undoing.

Inasmuch as a tiny espresso mug of chocolate pot de crème can be anyone’s undoing. This simple mixture of chocolate, milk, cream, and egg yolks is rich and certainly best served in tiny servings if you want to retain any bit of those good intentions. But where’s the fun in that?

Christine chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I love how rich and creamy it is but wish the chocolate flavor was more intense.

One year ago: Toasted-Coconut Custard Tart
Two years ago: Chocolate Whiskey Cake.

 

chocolate frosting comparison

Let me put this right out there: Chocolate frosting isn’t my favorite thing. Chocolate cake, chocolate cookies, chocolate pie, yes. Vanilla frosting, cream cheese frosting, lemon frosting, yes. Chocolate ganache, that richest of chocolate glazes, yes. But frosting, not so much, and so this comparison was by request. And curiosity – is there a chocolate frosting out there for the likes of me?

My theory is that I haven’t found the perfect chocolate frosting because I like chocolate things to be very very chocolately. A hint of chocolately is just a tease. And with frosting, you’re playing a balancing act between squeezing in as much chocolate flavor as possible while maintaining a light, fluffy texture.

I compared Cooks Illustrated’s Creamy Chocolate Frosting (CI), Ina Garten’s Chocolate Frosting associated with her recipe for Beatty’s Chocolate Cake (BC), and Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Frosting (MS). Other than the addition of some sort of chocolate and some sort of sugar, they have little in common. Well, that and butter. Lots and lots of butter.  I used the same bittersweet chocolate for all of the recipes. We tasted the frostings plain.

CI (wider star tip) – This recipe is a swiss meringue buttercream, in which warmed egg whites and sugar are beaten together until fluffy, then soft butter is slowly whipped in. Melted bittersweet chocolate and vanilla extract are added at the end. The ratio of chocolate to sugar and butter in this recipe is 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate to 0.4 ounces granulated sugar and 2.0 tablespoons butter.

MS (round star tip) – This recipe is a mixture of butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, cocoa, sour cream, and bittersweet chocolate. For every 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate, there is 0.8 ounces powdered sugar and 1.6 tablespoons of dairy fat (from various sources).  Plus 1.5 teaspoons of cocoa powder.  My ratio system doesn’t work so well for this recipe.

BC (finer star tip) – This frosting includes butter, an egg yolk, vanilla, powdered sugar, coffee and bittersweet chocolate. There is 0.8 ounces powdered sugar and 2.7 tablespoons butter for every 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate.

CI –This frosting was smooth and light with no graininess.  With the least amount of sugar and a high ratio of chocolate to butter, I was expecting this to deliver the rich chocolate flavor I was hoping for, but it tasted as light as it felt.  Maybe all that air from whipping the egg whites to a meringue diluted the flavor?

MS – This frosting was creamy and mousse-like, although a bit grainy. It was by far Dave’s favorite, and it was mine as well.  (The magic word is mousse-like.)

BC – This frosting was thinner and a little grainy. Similar to Ina Garten’s popular brownie recipe, I thought the coffee flavor was overpowering.  It would make a great mocha icing, but for a classic chocolate frosting, the coffee powder should be eliminated or at least reduced to a pinch.

(Cooks Illustrated, Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa, Martha Stewart)

It comes as no surprise to me that the recipe that includes cream cheese is my favorite. It does surprise me that Dave would feel that way, as he generally isn’t as much of a fan of cream cheese. Perhaps it’s because Martha Stewart’s recipe had the least fat per chocolate in it, although it does have plenty of other goodies in there.  Or perhaps that extra sprinkling of cocoa bumped up the chocolate flavor more than I expected. Whatever the reason, this rich creamy frosting was chocolately enough to overlook the slightly grainy texture.

Already, just hearing about this comparison, new chocolate frosting recipes are being recommended, so this isn’t the end of this story. But at least it’s a beginning.

(Cooks Illustrated, Martha Stewart, Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa)

One year ago: Jalapeno-Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes
Two years ago: Pot Roast
Three years ago: Vanilla Frosting comparison

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Chocolate Frosting
(from Martha Stewart via Annie Eats)

14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
9 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups (12 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream

1. Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Set aside to cool until just barely warm.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Beat in the melted and cooled chocolate and then the sour cream. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Frost cupcakes immediately.

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Creamy Chocolate Frosting
(from Cooks Illustrated)

⅓ cup (2⅓ ounces) granulated sugar
2 large egg whites
pinch table salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon pieces
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to 85-100 degrees
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set over a small saucepan of simmering water, and, whisking constantly, cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 2-4 minutes.

2. Fit bowl to stand mixer, and with the whisk attachment, beat at medium speed, until mixture is the consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1-3 minutes. Add butter 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. The frosting may look curdled halfway through, but it will smooth out eventually.

3. Once all the butter has been added, pour in the cooled chocolate and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Increase speed to medium-high and until light and fluffy, another 30 seconds to a minute. Frost cupcakes.

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Chocolate Buttercream
(from Ina Garten)

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups (5 ounces) sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

1. Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

chocolate oatmeal drops

Chocolate cookies, yay! Oatmeal cookies, boo.

No creaming of butter, boo. Brownie mixing method, yay!

Bit of spreading around the edges, boo. Delicious chewy brownie cookies with bits of oatmeal, yay!

Caroline and Claire chose these cookies for Tuesdays with Dorie, and they have the recipe posted. I increased the salt, replaced the water with vanilla, and left out the cinnamon.

One year ago: Dorie’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two years ago: Devil’s Food White-Out Cake

Okay, now my next extry will be a chocolate frosting comparison. Pinky swear.

nutty chocolately swirly sour cream bundt cake

I’ve got nothing against nuts and chocolate and currants, but you know what I really like best? Cake made with sour cream. For me, it always comes back to the purest form of flour plus butter plus sugar, and adding a tangy fatty dairy into the mix just makes things better. Usually that’s cream cheese, but I have nothing against sour cream either.

I’ve been doing a better job of reining in my batter-eating, but the few spoonfuls I had of this cake’s batter made me crave a bowl of the stuff, a quiet corner, and a cup of coffee. It also made me wish I had more sour cream cake. The swirl was fun, but all I really want is the cake part. Or the batter part.

Jennifer chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I actually didn’t change anything. I don’t think I even added more salt.

One year ago: Coco-Nana Muffins
Two years ago: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

chocolate madeleines

These madeleines made me crave chocolate mousse. If you aren’t a batter eater, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. You wouldn’t know how chocolately and fluffy and rich this batter was.  And if you aren’t a batter eater, I’m jealous, truly. I’d be a size smaller if I didn’t love cookie dough.

But I’m glad they were baked, because it gave me a chance to finally use the madeleine pan I got for Christmas – two years ago. I do feel silly having a pan I’ve never used for so long, but at least it’s easy to store and relatively cheap.  And honestly, seeing it in the cabinet every time I reached for my mini-muffin pan has made me happy.

And now I’m using it. For chocolate! You just can’t go wrong with little clam-shaped chocolate cakes, and dipping them in ganache is even better. Probably I should use the pan again a little sooner than two years from now. But first I need to make chocolate mousse.

Margo chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted on her site. I halved the recipe (and ate about 2 madeleines worth of batter).  I “filled” the madeleines with strained cherry jam instead of marshmallow fluff; however, I found that the amount of jam I was able to stuff into each little cake was negligible.

One year ago: Mrs. Vogel’s Sherben
Two years ago: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

midnight crackles

My holidays were full of family and gifts and food and fun. Also travel and snow and a bit of a cold at the end. Overall, it was wonderful. And very, very tiring.

I’m glad to be home. I’m looking forward to waking up and going to work, coming home and making dinner. Routine is tedious after too long, but it’s comforting after being away.

I’m extra appreciative of my own bed, with my perfectly squishy huggy pillow; of my favorite spot on the couch next to a pile of new books; of my tea and bagel each morning; of more than one serving of vegetables per day.

These cookies were made last month, during that manic period two weeks before Christmas when cookies seem to explode out of kitchens. One more batch of cookies brought to work right before Christmas blends in and disappears quickly; chocolate cookies the week after New Year’s might not be as welcome. Instead, I’m treating my coworkers to bran muffins today, just in case I’m not the only one craving a break from holiday excess.  We’ll eat cookies again soon enough.

Laurie and Julie chose these cookies for Tuesdays with Dorie’s third anniversary (birthday?), and the recipe is posted on the group’s website. Dorie recommends a long chilling step, but most members of the group found the cold dough was too hard to form into balls. A shorter chill time is probably sufficient.

One year ago: Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake
Two years ago: French Pear Tart

quintuple chocolate brownies

Back when we lived in a city with stores and restaurants and all of that, we used to go to the bookstore every Saturday afternoon to browse and drink fancy coffee. From there we’d head over to the huge grocery store for a sushi snack and whatever ingredients I’d forgotten on my main grocery trip. The whole outing – low-key but full of treats – was one of my favorite parts of the week.

These days, we adapt that routine for our trips up to Albuquerque, where we seem to end up once every couple of months to visit my family. We take a portion of a day to head to the bookstore, and then while Dave sits and reads a book, I go next door to Whole Foods to stock up on coffee, loose-leaf tea, chocolate, and cheese. The coffee, tea, and chocolate keep well, but we eat a lot of cheese in the week after those trips.

That’s why it isn’t unusual for me to have five different types of chocolate lying around. It is unusual that one of those will be milk or white chocolate, which is how these ended up being quadruple chocolate brownies instead of quintuple. Similarly, it’s how the tiny bit of white chocolate that was all I had got added as chunks instead of melted as a glaze.

Whether quintuple or quadruple, these are some of the best brownies I’ve ever had. They certainly weren’t cakey, and yet they weren’t really chewy either. They were melt-in-your-mouth tender, and with four types of chocolate, you know they had great flavor.

One year ago: Low and Lush Chocolate Cheesecake
Two years ago: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

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Quintuple Chocolate Brownies (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)

I skipped the nuts and glaze and stirred the white chocolate chunks into the batter.

For the Brownies:
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons strong coffee
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
6 ounces premium-quality milk chocolate, chopped into chips, or 1 cup store-bought milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

For the Glaze:
6 ounces premium-quality white chocolate, finely chopped, or 1 cup store-bought white chocolate chips
⅓ cup heavy cream

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, and salt.

To Make the Brownies:
Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add, in the following order, the butter, the two chocolates and the coffee. Keeping the pan over low heat, warm just until the butter and chocolates are melted – you don’t want the ingredients to get so hot they separate, so keep an eye on the bowl. Stir gently, and when the mixture is smooth, set it aside for 5 minutes.

Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, beat the sugar into the chocolate mixture. Don’t beat too vigorously – you don’t want to add air to the batter – and don’t be concerned about any graininess. Next, stir in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. You should have a smooth, glossy batter. If you’re not already using a rubber spatula, switch to one now and gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. Finally, stir in the milk chocolate chips and the nuts. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out streaked but not thickly coated. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the brownies rest undisturbed for at least 30 minutes. (You can wait longer, if you’d like.)

Turn the brownies out onto a rack, peel away the foil and place it under another rack – it will be the drip catcher for the glaze. Invert the brownies onto the rack and let cool completely.

To Make the Glaze:
Put the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Wait 30 seconds, then, using a rubber spatula, gently stir until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth.

Hold a long metal icing spatula in one hand and the bowl of glaze in the other. Pour the glaze onto the center of the brownies and use the spatula to nudge it evenly over the surface. Don’t worry if it dribbles over the edges, you can trim the sides later (or not). Refrigerate the brownies for about 20 minutes to dry the glaze.

Cut into 16 squares, each roughly 2¼ inches on a side.

Note: These brownies can be frozen (even with the glaze) for up to two months. They can be stored at room temperature or enjoyed cold from the refrigerator.

oreo cheesecake cookies

I was feeling a bit crabby last week. I’ve been teaching in the evenings after work, which has fun aspects, but preparing lectures, grading labs, writing exams, and going to class has been seriously cutting into my kitchen time. I can’t remember the last time I baked an impromptu batch of cookies – when I had no one planned to eat my treats, when I saw a recipe and realized I had all of the ingredients lying around, when I had a spare hour or so to make a mess in the kitchen. No wonder I was feeling out of sorts.

Now that the semester is over, I have lofty goals of keeping my house cleaner, exercising more rigorously, and learning everything from the basics of Italian to the ins and outs of Photoshop. But the truth is that I’ll probably spend the bulk of my new spare time in the kitchen playing with butter, flour, and sugar.

And cream cheese, if I’m lucky. As soon as someone says cream cheese, my ears perk up. And it’s all the better if it’s combined with oreos. These cream cheese cookies rolled in oreo crumbs are a fun take on that combination. There’s no egg in the dough, which not only simplified halving the recipe to use the odd bits and ends I had laying around, but gave the cookies a soft texture reminiscent of shortbread. Overall, they were the perfect way to end a baking dry period and put me in a better frame of mind.

One year ago: Bourbon Pound Cake
Two years ago: Cranberry Orange Muffins

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Oreo Cheesecake Cookies (rewritten from multiplydelicious)

Makes about 30 cookies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup oreo cookie sandwich crumbs (about 8 oreos)

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the butter, cream cheese and salt on medium-low speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, and then add the flour and mix on low just until combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

3. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Drop the dough balls into a bowl of oreo cookie crumbs and roll to coat. Arrange the dough balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

4. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, until the edges just start to brown and the tops are set. Cool for a minute or two on the sheets, then transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

devilish shortcakes

While I’m grateful to the recent Tuesdays with Dorie recipe choosers for picking seasonal recipes, I miss chocolate. It’s been months – almost four! – since chocolate has played a starring roll in a recipe – and December isn’t looking any better. A few chips here and there in cookies just isn’t going to cut it for the long term.

After Caitlin’s warning that these are “very subtly chocolate”, I decided that the solution was to add chunks of bittersweet chocolate into the biscuit dough. I considered filling the biscuits with ganache instead of whipped cream, but decided that after a holiday weekend dedicated largely to eating, I couldn’t afford either.

Greek yogurt with pomegranate seeds made the perfect compromise. But my favorite bites are still the ones that include bits of pure chocolate.  It’s just been too long.

Tania chose these chocolate shortcakes for the group, and she has the recipe posted. I made half the recipe using 1 whole egg yolk instead of ½ an egg. I split my halved recipe into 8 portions. I mixed 2 ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate into the dry ingredients (but even more chocolate would have been welcome).

One year ago: All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake
Two years ago: Linzer Sablés

almost-fudge gateau

If I’m not careful, my sister is going to start to associate visiting me with having to find time for extra workouts after she gets back, and then she won’t visit. Or maybe she’ll associate her visits down here with exceptionally rich desserts, and she’ll bring my nephews here more often. These are things I need to consider.

After the cheesecake extravaganza of her last visit, I resisted my very strong desire to make pumpkin cheesecake this time. Instead, I considered my brother-in-law’s preferences, which are chocolate chocolate chocolate.

So, after the park, after dinner, after bath time, after stories, it was time for grown-up dessert. And it’s just possible that almost-fudge gateau – topped with ganache one evening and raspberry coulis the next – might draw them back here soon. And not just because the kids want to climb on the rocket ship in the playground.

One year ago: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies
Two years ago: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

Almost-Fudge Gateau (adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)

5 large eggs
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
5 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons coffee or water
⅓ cup (1.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
pinch salt

Glaze:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour, and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

2. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.

3. Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and add the chocolate, sugar, butter and coffee. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are melted. Transfer the bowl to the counter, and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes.

4. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks, one by one, then fold in the flour.

5. Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm, glossy peaks. Using the spatula, stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the butter into the pan, and jiggle the pan from side to side to even the batter.

6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges, and you’ll think it’s done, but give it a few minutes, and the center will puff, too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn’t shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack, and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

7. Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake, and remove the sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack, and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack, and cool to room temperature right side up. As the cake cools, it may sink.

8. For the Glaze: First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack, so you’ll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips.

9. Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or over a pan of simmering water.

10. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the corn syrup.

11. Pour the glaze over the cake, and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature, or slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. If the glaze dulls in the fridge, give it a little gentle heat from a hairdryer.