Sunday, January 25, 2009

Blood Orange Sandwich Cookies

Sorry for the longer than expected delay, but it’s been a really busy week phasing back into the semester. Fortunately I found some time tonight to bake. I had been keeping my eyes open for blood oranges for quite some time, and finally found some the other day. All that was left was to decide what to make. Not having a whole lot of time this weekend I decided to go for something simple, chocolate and almond cookies with blood orange curd filling. For the cookie base I decided to go with a shortbread base, with mini-chocolate chips mixed in. 

I thought these cookies were good, but a little gooey. The shortbread was very crispy, and so the filling tends to squirt out when you bite down. The filling was good, but not the strongest blood orange flavor in the world, I think one of the oranges I used was a little on the weak side. UPDATED: these cookies taste a lot better if you store them in the fridge for awhile, the curd stays firmer, and so doesn't squeeze out when you bite, and the flavors mingle better.

Almond Chocolate-Chip Shortbread

Makes 40 Sandwiches (80 cookies)

1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softend
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup ground almonds (I ground about ¾ of a cup of whole, blanched almonds to get this amount)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour  
¾ cup miniature chocolate chips

1.  Cream together the butter and the sugars on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in the salt, the extracts, the almonds, the chocolate chips, and the flour. Once the dough starts to come together into medium sized clumps stop the mixer and press the dough together with your hands.

2. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the dough out of the fridge.  Break the dough into two pieces. On a floured surface roll out one of the disks until it is about ¼ inch thick. Use a round cookie cutter, or a glass to cut 1 inch circles out of the dough. Pick up the extra dough, and transfer the circles to the cookie sheets. Roll out the second disk of dough and do the same, then combine the extra pieces of dough and roll it out. Continue rolling out the dough until you have made as many cookies as you can.

5. Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until the edges are just turning golden. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheets

Blood Orange Curd

½ cup blood orange juice 
2 tsp finely grated blood orange zest 
2 tsp lemon juice 
½ cup sugar 
3 eggs 
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1. In the bowl of a double boiler over medium-high heat, mix all ingredients except for the butter. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and the whisk begins to leave a trail (175 degrees on a candy thermometer)

2. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in the butter.

3. Pour the curd into a bowl or baking dish, and press plastic wrap onto the surface. Place into the fridge and refrigerate until it has firmed up.

4. Once the curd is firm, place 1-2 tsp of curd onto the bottom of one cookie, and sandwich with another. Store in an airtight container in a refrigerator.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm Back

Sorry for the extended absence folks, but I'm back, with a new semester starting up and some new cooking and baking projects to tackle. I'm not quite sure when the next post will go up, hopefully sometime this week. Unfortunately my digital camera is out of commission (it chose a good time to break, right after I finished my vacation), so I'll have to work out some interim solution until it can be repaired. 

Friday, January 9, 2009

I Can't Believe There's No Butter

A few weeks ago my brother and his family were coming over for dinner, and I volunteered to make the dessert. This was complicated, however, by the fact that my sister-in-law doesn’t eat dairy, nor is my brother’s family big into sugar. I spent a fair amount of time trying to think of something that would meet these criteria. I knew I could make something simple like a sponge cake, but that just didn’t quite seem right. And while I could make genoise without dairy, which would leave the question of frosting (a dairy free frosting is hard to come by, other than meringue). And then I remembered the magic chocolate mousse I made a few months ago, which requires only bittersweet chocolate and water. I decided I wanted to make this, and sandwich it between two dacquoise made with hazelnuts and almonds. The result was really delicious. The mousse as by far the dominant flavor, but its richness was nicely offset by the light and crispy dadquoise disks. And the best thing about this dessert is that it’s surprisingly healthy (for a dessert anyway). The only fats come from bittersweet chocolate, and the nuts, neither of which are particularly bad for you (at least compared with most desserts I make which have several sticks of butter). Remember to use good quality chocolate when you make the mousse here. This would also be really good with some fruit, either some fresh raspberries or strawberries, or some jam smeared on the insides of the disks. We, however, did not serve them like that.

Unfortunately the ingredients for the dacquoise are in grams, because I used Pierre Herme’s recipe. I’ll try to measure things back out and give a volume at some point.


Chocolate Mousse Sandwiches

Makes seven 5-inch sandwiches

Chocolate Mousse

400 ml water 
16 oz. bittersweet chocolate 
2 T Frangelico or Amaretto (or other nut flavored liquor)

1. Get a large mixing bowl and a larger pot. Fill the large pot with ice and water, and place the mixing bowl in it. You might want to build a foil collar for the mixing bowl, as chocolate is going to spray.

2. In a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine the chocolate and water. Heat over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixed with the water.

3. Pour the water and chocolate mixture into the prepared mixing bowl, and immediately begin to beat using a hand mixer. Beat for 5-10 minutes, or until mixture has cooled and stiffened into a mousse (the more you beat, the stiffer it will get, and because it will loosen up when the liquor is added, you want it very stiff to start).

4. Beat in the liquor. Store the mousse in the fridge until ready to use


Hazelnut-Almond Dacquoise

215 grams nuts (hazelnuts and/or almonds) 
150 grams confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting 
5 egg whites 
50 grams granulated sugar

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a ramekin or mug, trace 14 5 – 6 inch circles on the parchment, leaving an inch between each. Set aside

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the nuts out on a cookie sheet and bake them for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Quickly place them into a towel and rub them together to get the skins off. (chances are you will be more successful getting the skins of the hazelnuts than the almonds, don’t worry about it).

3. Reserve 80 grams of the nuts. Place the remaining 135 grams in the food processor and pulse until coarse. Add the powdered sugar and pulse until combined and fine.

4. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. With the mixer on high, gradually add the granulated sugar. Continue beating the egg whites until they reach still peaks.

5. Gently fold the nut and sugar mixture into the egg white mixture, until just combined.

6. Using a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch tip (this is just a bear coupler on a regular bag). Pipe the dacquoise into the prepared circles. Start at the center of the circle and move outwards in a spiral. Chances are your circles won’t look perfect, but don’t worry about it.

7. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until disks are crisp and golden, switching the baking sheets half way through. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container with wax paper between the disks until assembly.


Don’t assemble these until at least a few hours before serving, otherwise you risk the dacquoise becoming soggy from the mousse.

1. Place the 7 uglier disks face up on their serving plates (so that the flat side is down). Place a serving of mousse onto each dacquoise base (I would say half a cup, but that’s an estimate).

 Place a second dacquoise disk on top of the mousse and press down, but not so much that the mousse squirts out the sides. Serve.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Brownies for Dorie

Happy New Year! A friend of mine threw a holiday party the other night, so I decided to put together some brownies to bring along. Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for “Chipster-Topped Brownies” looked pretty tempting. The idea behind these brownies is that they are brownies topped with chocolate chip cookies. I didn’t think they quite turned out that way, the cookie top wasn’t really distinct from the brownie base. That said they were absolutely delicious. They take a little bit of work to make because you really have to make two separate batters, but I didn’t think it was too bad. Overall these were definitely a crowd pleaser, and made a nice, very chocolaty brownie.

Chipster Topped Brownies

Makes a 9x13 pan

For the Brownie Layer

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped 
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped 
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up into chunks 
1 2/3 cups sugar 
4 large eggs 
½ tsp salt 
½ tsp vanilla 
1 cup AP-flour 
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (I used pecans, because they’re what I had)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 cake pan, line it with parchment paper, and butter the paper.

2. Over a double boiler melt together the two chocolates and the butter, stirring just until smooth. Remove from heat.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the sugar and eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until thick and pale. Beat in the salt and vanilla.

4. Reduce speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate until just incorporated. Scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula. With the mixer on slow add the flour and mix until just incorporated.

5. Fold in the walnuts. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, and level with a spatula.


For Cookie Layer

1 ¼ cup flour 
½ tsp baking soda 
½ tsp salt 
¾ cups (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar 
1 large egg 
1 large egg yolk 
1 tsp vanilla 
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.2. Beat together the butter and the sugars in medium high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.

3. One at a time add the egg, then the egg yolk, beating for a minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips.

5. Drop the cookie batter on top of the brownie batter by spoonfuls. Using a spatula, gently spread the cookie layer out over the top of the brownie layer.

6. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden brown and a knife tester comes out with only faint streaks of moist chocolate.

7. Remove the pan from the oven, let cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, invert onto a cutting board, then flip back to right-side up. Cut into bars and serve.