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Archive for the ‘chocolate’ Tag


World Peace, a step in the right direction

It is difficult to write about my experiences in Syria knowing that the country is on the brink of civil war and chaos. It breaks my heart. I also realize that not writing anything won’t necessarily make things better, either. And giving up on my blog — the thing that used to bring me so much happiness — is the last thing I want to do.

mise en placemise_en_place

I want to keep today’s post short with the promise that I’ll be back again soon. I won’t disappear like I did before, you have my word. Thank you to all those who nudged me (physically and electronically) and encouraged me to continue writing. It may have taken me a while, but I’m here.

creaming processmixing

Today’s recipe is not one that I learned on my Fulbright in Syria, although I still have plenty of those to share with you, too. This is a recipe that I’ve come across many times on some of my favorite food blogs: World Peace Cookies. It even made it to Saveur’s list, Recipes that Rocked the Internet. Given all that is going on, I thought this was the perfect time to try such an alluring cookie.

sift for clumpssifting

Pastry Chef Pierre Hermé originally developed these cookies for a restaurant in Paris, and Dorie Greenspan introduced them to the world in her book, Paris Sweets . The original name for the cookies was Sables Korova, or Korova Cookies, named after the restaurant off Champs Élysées that Pierre Hermé created the recipe for. It was not until Dorie’s neighbor tasted these these ultra decadent, chocolate-intense cookies that the name changed to what we know today. Dorie’s neighbor was convinced that a daily dose of these is all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness; thus the new name was born.

chocolate: the ‘peace’ in ‘world peace’adding_chocolate

I used Dorie’s recipe, except I took the liberty to add a pinch of orange zest to the dough; the combination of orange and chocolate makes my heart swoon. You could always leave that addition out if you’d like. The point is, these cookies are amazing any way you prepare them. They are crumbly and chocolatey and even if they don’t bring world peace immediately, I’m fully convinced, as was Dorie’s neighbor, that they are a step in the right direction.

refrigerate dough (in logs)logs
cookie doughcookie_dough
freshly bakedsheet_tray
World Peace Cookiesworld_peace_cookies1
cold milk: enabler of world peace world_peace_cookies2

World Peace Cookies

yields approx 36 cookies

Components

  • 1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons or 150 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (120 grams) (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces (150 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips
  • zest of half an orange*(not in original recipe)

Putting them all together

  1. Mix together the butter and sugars in a stand mixer on medium speed until the mixture becomes pale and creamy. You can also use a hand mixer. Add the salt, vanilla extract, and orange zest and mix for a couple more minutes.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda and add to the butter and sugar mixture. Pulse a few times at a low speed to incorporate the flour and prevent it from spilling. Add the chocolate chunks and mix on low speed for 30 seconds, or until the flour is fully incorporated. Do not overwork the dough; the dough should still look and feel crumbly. Divide the dough in two and form into logs approximately 1.5 inches in diameter. Roll each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours (you can refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days or freeze the dough for 2 months).
  3. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  4. With a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into disks that are 1/2 inch thick. Don’t worry if the disks crack as you cut them, just squeeze the bits back together. Arrange the sliced disks on your baking sheets, making sure to leave about an inch between each cookie.
  5. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes. Note that they will still be soft and won’t look done, but that’s how they should be. Cool the cookies on a cookie rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Make sure to store leftover cookies (if there are any) in an airtight container.

Notes: Recipe adapted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan.

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if not world peace, then happiness, for sureempty_glass

Vegas Decadence Packed in a Brioche Panini

Vegas is all about one thing: over the top, elaborate, in-your-face, decadence. On my trip to Vegas last week I noticed that was a recurring theme. Gelato at 11 o’clock at night. Extravagant shows put on by Cirque du Soleil. The world’s largest chocolate fountain. Vegas is decadent. Sure, some people perceive its decadence in other more “lewd” ways, but I was there to experience the amazing food. I also learned how to play Craps along the way, but that’s a different blog post.

I uploaded more photos from my Vegas trip to Flickr.

Wynn Hotel
wynn hotel
Beignets Filled with Oozing Chocolate
chocolate_donuts

Restaurant: The Country Club

SW Steak House
steak

Restaurant: SW SteakHouse

Kobe Beef Carpaccio
carpaccio

Restaurant: The Country Club

Duck Coated in a Fig-BBQ Sauce Served on Brioche Bun
duck_burger

Restaurant: The Country Club

Lots of love at Jean Philippe Patisserie
jean philippe patisserie

Restaurant: Jean Philippe Pattisserie

Out of all the dishes I had that week, my absolute favorite, which was not an easy decision to arrive at (as you could see), featured house-made elk sausage. It was the only dish I ordered twice that week. I don’t usually order a dish twice, but I had to make an exception. It was that good. The sausage, you see, was served on a bed of a marble potato hash cooked with pancetta and a mix of sweet peppers and onions. And gracefully balanced atop of the elk sausage rested a perfectly poached egg. It was perfect — no undercooked egg white and a barely warm yolk, still very runny of course. In order to qualify for Las Vegas decadence status, however, you need that extra something. That extra something, in this case, was the beautifully prepared, buttery choron sauce. If you’ve never had choron sauce, just think béarnaise with a bit of tomato purée. Instead of the puree, however, the chef incorporated a fine dice of sun dried tomatoes to achieve a similar flavor with added texture.

Elk Sausage Served with Poached Eggs and Choron Sauce
elk sausage

Restaurant: Tableau

Me and Chef Timothy Henderson at Tableau
chef at Tableau

Photo Credit: M. Scott Smith

Today, I decided to pay tribute to Las Vegas with an equally decadent blog post. I didn’t have to look too far since I have plenty of decadent brioche left over from my previous post. You can’t tell from the photos, but I had made 2 batches of brioche, which left me with 4 total loaves, and 6 sticks of butter less in the fridge. But that’s not enough. In order to come close to Vegas-level decadence, I needed something more. I needed that charon sauce — something to take this already rich bread to new levels of decadence. Chocolate was the answer (as it almost always is).

mise en place
mise en place

With some spotty bananas sitting on my counter, I decided to turn some of my left over brioche into mini chocolate-banana panini.

banana-chocolate
banana-chocolate
wait, wait… some extra chocolate
extra chocolate
panini press
panini press
chocolate-banana brioche panini
chocolate-banana brioche panini

Chocolate-Banana Brioche Panini

yields 4 panini

Components

  • 4 thick slices of brioche (1/2 inch)
  • High Quality Dark Chocolate (50-70% Cocoa)*, medium chop
  • thinly sliced bananas

Putting them all together

  1. Cut each slice of brioche in half.
  2. Layer chocolate chunks topped with a few slices of banana and an extra sprinkling of chocolate. The chocolate will act as a glue and keep the bananas in place.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a panini press or on a skillet over a burner*.

Notes: I used Callebaut Chocolate for these panini, although any high quality dark chocolate also works — El Rey (Venezuela) and Valrhona (France) are a couple of my favorite brands. You could also make your own panini press by placing your sandwich in a large skillet over medium heat and topping it with another heated skillet (cast iron works best because it’s heavy).

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oozing chocolate, creamy banana, buttery brioche — decadence accomplished
chocolate, banana, brioche

I scream(ed)

I find that when you don’t know how to go about saying something, it’s best to come out and say it. I learned this when I was younger. It’s like pulling off a bandaid…

My Canon Rebel died last week.

It hurt me to even type that, but it’s the truth. If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to leave your camera with a hotel for a couple hours after checkout, don’t do it. I hate to sound jaded, but that’s how my Canon met its horrible fate. The hotel is still investigating the matter, which, I hope, is not code for, let’s see how we could get out of this. So far they’ve been relatively kind and helpful, but I’m still waiting for them to make things right.

The last thing I photographed before my trip was a chocolate hazelnut ice cream. I stumbled upon this recipe for gianduia gelato on epicurious and couldn’t pass it up — it’s like Nutella ice cream. Despite the relatively positive reviews, I added my own twist by spiking the gelato base with hazelnut liqueur. Although it did not bring my camera back, I was happy to find the leftover gelato waiting for me in my freezer after I came home from my dismal trip.

mise en place

The recipe calls for peeled, toasted hazelnuts, ground and steeped in hot milk. I’ve always peeled my hazelnuts by toasting them and rubbing them between a kitchen towel. While this method doesn’t get rid of all the skin, it does a great job of getting rid of most of it with very little effort. There’s also what has been dubbed the Julia Child technique, which requires you to boil the hazelnuts in water with baking soda until the water turns dark. Then you have to allow them to cool before you can peel the skins off. Either method works, although for this recipe, I don’t think you need to worry about getting all the peel off because you’ll be straining everything two steps later.

peeled hazelnuts

Pulse the peeled and toasted hazelnuts with sugar. Remember, the finer you grind your hazelnuts (i.e. the more surface area there is), the more hazelnut flavor will be infused into the milk. I went with a coarse cornmeal grind, but I feel like I could’ve gone further than that.

hazelnuts & sugar

Once the hazelnuts steep in the hot milk for 20-30 minutes, you’ve essentially drawn out most of their flavor. I do not recommend reusing these. If you’re craving gelato with some texture, I recommend setting aside some of the toasted hazelnuts and folding them into the semi-frozen base once it comes out of the ice cream maker.

the last drop has the most flavor, so push

Rule number one: never add cornstarch to a hot liquid without diluting. My solution was to dilute the cornstarch in hazelnut liqueur before adding it to the strained milk mixture.

spiked cornstarch slurry

Once the mixture comes to a boil and reaches its maximum thickening potential, mix in your chocolate. I used a Callebaut 60% chocolate.

+chocolate

The next step is to let your mixture cool completely before adding it to your ice cream maker. The best thing, in my opinion, is to let it go overnight. The colder the ice cream base is before it goes into the ice cream maker, the less ice crystals will form, and the smoother your ice cream will be.

cooled ice cream base

Since this gelato recipe uses cornstarch as a thickener, the base looks almost like a pudding after it is cooled; this is normal. Make sure to taste the base before putting it into the ice cream maker — not only is this a good habit in terms of making sure everything is seasoned correctly, but the base alone makes for an awesome chocolate hazelnut pudding.

gianduia gelato

If you use the ice cream attachment on your kitchen aid, as I did, make sure to whip as little air into the gelato base (i.e. keep your mixer on the lowest setting). This will help create the silky, slow-churned texture that gelato is known for.

chocolate hazelnut gelato

Gianduia Gelato

yields approx 1 quart

Components

  • 2 cups hazelnuts (8 ounces), toasted , skins rubbed off, and cooled
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 tbsp hazelnut liqueur
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao), finely chopped

Putting them all together

  1. Pulse toasted and peeled hazelnuts with sugar in a food processor. The result should resemble a coarse cornmeal texture.
  2. Combine the hazelnut mixture and the milk in a heavy-bottom medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it reaches a boil, cover and set aside for 20-30 minutes.
  3. A couple minutes before the hazelnuts are done steeping in the milk, combine the hazelnut liqueur with the cornstarch to make a slurry. If the mixture is still a too thick (i.e. or clumpy), add cold milk to thin it out some more.
  4. Strain the ground hazelnuts from the milk mixture and discard.
  5. Return the strained milk to the medium sauce pot, stir in the the cornstarch slurry and boil over medium heat for 2 minutes, making sure to stir constantly. The mixture will be thick.
  6. Remove from heat and mix in the finely chopped chocolate.
  7. Chill the base in the refrigerator overnight, or at least for 4-6 hours, then put it into your ice cream maker to make the gelato.
  8. When complete, transfer the gelato to an air-tight container and freeze until ready to eat.

note: recipe adapted from epicurious.com

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all done

Inspired By Inspiration

I don’t know what else I’m supposed to call it, but inspired by inspiration seemed appropriate. This month for A Taste of the Mediterranean we’re exploring tarts. Seeing as I’m asking bloggers to submit their own variations of this French classic, I thought I’d make some myself.

mise en place

My inspiration for this post came from Fanny, who had gotten her inspiration from Pierre Herme (aka Meeta’s sugar daddy). Sounds like a soap gone bad, I know, but it’s all about the food here (focus, Tony). Tarts usually have two components to them: a crust and a filling (and sometimes a topping).

This crust for is made from ground walnuts and the usual suspects: flour, eggs, butter and sugar (ie. the stuff that makes desserts desserts). For the filling I decided to combine roasted pears, half of a banana, and some ginger because the combination of ginger and pears makes me happy.

Then I thought of Italy. I know, quite random (and rude) if you’re making a French dessert, but I couldn’t help it. Let me explain. While I was in Italy last winter I tasted this chocolate pear torte that made my taste buds swoon. I wasn’t sure if I could recreate that moment in my own kitchen, but it was worth the try. In the end, my taste buds were quite happy. 

mash to your heart’s content

Once the pears have roasted with the vanilla bean, some sugar and ginger, it’s time you bring the banana into play. In retrospect, I would use either less banana or more pears just because of how powerful the flavor of the banana could be. Also, if you’re an eat-while-you-cook person like I am, I suggest you make more of this filling than you think you’ll need – it’s like gourmet baby food good. 

upside down mini-cupcake tin

I wanted to make mini tarts, but not too mini. If I would’ve used the inside of the mini-cupcake tin, the tarts would have been more dough than anything else. Solution: I flipped the tin over and made use of the bottom. 

scooping the roasted pear filling

The fact that the inside of the cupcake tin was too small turned out to be a good thing. Each tart ended up with a nice star design from the naturally crimped edges. 

chocolate heaven

The ganache is the last, but albeit most decadent component of the entire production. I recommend anywhere from a 60% to 75% good quality chocolate for this component. Since the pears and banana are naturally sweet you’ll want to look for a chocolate with natural bitterness to it in order to offset the sweetness of the filling.

a pool of chocolate

Once the hot cream melts the chocolate for the ganache, add a tablespoon of room temperature butter to the recently-ganached chocolate. This gives the tarts that shiny gloss that makes them so pretty.

ginger-infused roasted pear chocolate tarts

Top with a couple thin slices of crystallized ginger and you’re set. I hope this has inspired you to try out your own tart concoctions at home! igourmet is ready to give a $50 gift certificate to the winning tart entry – check out more info on A Taste of the Mediterranean.

Ginger-infused Roasted Pear Chocolate Tarts

approx 18 mini tarts

Components

  • tart dough, replace pistachios with walnuts
  • 3 bosc pears
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ginger, ground
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 oz dark chocolate, 60-75%
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • crystallized ginger for garnish

Putting them all together

  1. Make tart dough and bake the tart shells (you can use the bottom of a mini cupcake tin or anything else you might have on hand).
  2. Cut pears into medium-sized chunks and scatter them in a roasting pan.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  4. Over medium heat cook the sugar and water until you get a dark amber color. Swivel the pot, but resist the urge to mix with a spoon, this will help keep the sugar from crystallizing.
  5. Once color turns amber, add the ginger and 1tsp of the lemon juice to the hot sugar mix (be careful, it will splatter a bit) and pour over the chopped pears.
  6. Baste the pears while they roast in the oven and remove them once they are soft and you can poke them with a knife with little to no resistance (the time will depend on how large your pieces are, approx 25-30 min).
  7. Once they’re out of the oven mash the banana and add the remaining tsp of lemon juice. Cover the mixture and allow to cool in the fridge.
  8. To make the ganache, bring the cream to a simmer and pour over chopped chocolate. Slowly stir with a wooden spoon until all the chocolate has melted. Add one tbsp of butter at room temperature to add gloss to your ganache.
  9. To assemble the tarts scoop some of the pear filling on the bottom of each tart. Then cover with the chocolate ganache and top with slivers of crystallized ginger for garnish.

note: Tart shells and roasted pear filling can be made a couple days in advance.

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the best part about working with chocolate

The Cookies the Doctor Prescribed

When I was a kid I was baffled by the cruel idea that anything full of flavor was supposed to be unhealthy. Never mind where babies came from, I was more concerned with philosophical questions like, why ice cream tastes better than my steamed broccoli? And until I developed an appreciation for veggies and the usual suspects, my nutrition primarily came in the form of Flintstones chewable multivitamins and vegetables strategically hidden in my food, something my mom was an expert at.

While I was in Italy this past winter I came across these curiously ugly cookies that stood out among the gorgeous layered cakes and tempting pastries. Not only were these cookies pretty ugly, but they weren’t cheap either; and had it not been for the three consecutive customers that ordered them in front of me, I would have probably never discovered the wonders of brutti ma buoni, which literally translated means, ugly but good.

mise en place

Imagine a decadent cookie that is crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and has no added fat or flour! It sounds unnatural, almost sacrilege, but these traditional Tuscan cookies are pure genius. All their fat comes from the natural oils in the nuts and are they’re cleverly held together by nothing more than beaten egg whites.

it’s like magic

Traditionally, these cookies only had hazelnuts and maybe a few almonds, but I like the combination of the different nuts. You can use any combination you prefer as long as hazelnuts remain in the picture. The neat trick that I tried* to demonstrate via my 3-step diagram is to roast the hazel nuts in a 350 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes; then spread them over a clean kitchen towel, cover them, and rub them against each other. You’ll notice some of the nuts are stubborn and hold on to their skins for their dear lives. The best (and most enjoyable) solution to this is to bake more than you need and eat the ones that don’t cooperate.

crushed, but slightly coarse

Before the days of shiny and pretty kitchen appliances, Italians would crush the nuts using a mortar and pestle and whisk their egg whites by hand. Sounds outrageous, right? But back then when you said you were cooking, you were really cooking. Today you can use what you want to get that same semi-fine texture on the nuts and stiff peaks on the egg whites.

mounds of nutty-chocolate goodness

In order for the mainly egg white batter to come together, you have to cook it over medium low heat before baking it. Once the batter thickens you can scoop it onto a sheet pan and bake the cookies in the oven until they’re crispy on the outside and crunchy and chewy on the inside.

a look inside

I don’t think it’s humanly possible to resist a freshly baked batch of cookies cooling on a rack. They’re so soft and delicate at this point that eating them becomes effortless, which could be dangerous.

brutti ma buoni

I wasn’t joking around when I said these cookies were ugly! You can imagine how these stood out against their dainty neighbors on display at the patisserie. The traditional recipe doesn’t even call for cocoa powder, but I feel like the chocolate/hazelnut combo is one that can’t be passed up.

Although these cookies are probably healthier than your average butter/flour-saturated cookies, they’re not an invitation for gluttony. These cookies still have plenty of sugar and should be eaten in moderation, like all foods. And that’s precisely what I’ve come to realize since my veggie-avoiding years as a child. Flavor along with all its associated “unhealthiness” should not be avoided, but rather enjoyed in moderate amounts.

Brutti Ma Buoni

approx 18 cookies

Components

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, peeled
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup almonds, peeled
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • zest of an orange
  • zest of a lemon
  • 2 tsp frangelico (or any nut liqueur/extract)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder, dutch process
  • 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt

Putting them all together

  1. Toast the nuts until golden brown and allow to cool.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak.
  3. Mix the nuts with the sugar and pulse in a food processor until you reach a semi-fine consistency.
  4. Fold in all the ingredients into the whisked egg whites (carefully so as to not lose too much volume).
  5. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  6. In a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, cook the mixture until slightly thick 20-25 minutes. This will yield a thicker batter that won’t flatten out in the oven.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake the cookies at 300 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until dry on the outside and still slightly moist and chewy on the inside.

note: These cookies are perfect gifts for the upcoming holiday season. Pretty packaging for these cookies is a must, though.

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