French Macarons

Our recent trip to Paris introduced me to one of the sweetest delicacies I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating – French macarons. These are not to be mistaken with (coconut based) macaroons, which too are delicious but a completely different beast.

I didn’t actually come across these ornate treats until our second day in the City of Lights when we walked up Champs Elysees and discovered a cool boutique Parisian cafe called Laduree (which, as I quickly  realized, is world renown).

The irony in my latest food obsession is the fact that I didn’t even care to try them at first. Tania was hungry and got herself a croissant at Laduree. I was in the mood for something different and opted for a box of 8 macarons (which are NOT cheap!). Expecting a stale shelled pastry, I was pleasantly surprised by the complexion and texture of these macarons. A firm outer shell followed by a smooth and sweet interior and cool and firm filling…mmmmmmm.

Upon landing back in the US, the challenge was on – I was determined to replicate the Laduree’s Parisian macarons! Worst case, if my attempts failed, I had an alternate plan of buying them at the recently opened Laduree store on the Upper East Side (for $3 per piece!).

After days of research and a few attempts, I am here to share the best technique for macaron making. As it turned out, macarons are difficult to make and temperamental if you don’t follow the right directions. One wrong move and you’re done.

The internet is an amazing resource but also filled with ALOT of information. In all of my research, I found the following three sites to be the best resources in macaron making: FoodNouveau, Tartlette, and Not So Humble Pie.

Recipe

Serving Size (40-50 cookies)

Estimated time: 1 hours

Ingredients:

  • 100g egg whites (aged 24 hours) – this measurement comes out to 2-3 eggs
  • 30g sugar
  • 5g dehydrated egg white powder
  • 125g almond meal/flour
  • 220g powdered sugar (high quality)

What You’ll Need:

  • scale
  • baking sheet
  • parchment paper
  • hand or stand mixer
  • mixing bowls
  • sifter / mesh sieve
  • pastry piping bag and round tip

Directions:

  1. divide eggs, cover in plastic wrap and leave out at room temperature overnight
  2. next day, measure out all ingredients using a scale
  3. prepare 2 baking sheets covered in parchment paper
  4. sift almond meal and powdered sugar into a new bowl
  5. combine granulated sugar with dehydrated egg whites into one bowl
  6. begin preparing merengue: on medium speed, mix (using mixer) egg whites until foamy
  7. begin to add granulated sugar/dehydrated egg mixture to the egg whites
  8. once mixture is fully integrated, turn up the speed to high and whip until soft peaks are achieved. this will take 3-5 minutes. don’t over mix…you don’t want the peaks to become too firm. your base / meringue is ready
  9. if you plan on adding liquid food coloring, this is the time to do it – drop a few drops into meringue (whipped egg whites) and fold to incorporate
  10. now it’s time to make the batter – pour 1/4 of almond/sugar mixture into the meringue and fold to incorporate using a rubber spatula. the motion should be gentle enough not to deflate the whipped egg whites
  11. continue folding in the rest of the almond / sugar mixture until complete. fold until everything is fully incorporated but do not over mix
  12. pre-heat oven to 290 F
  13. prepare a pastry piping bag with a standard large/round tip and pour batter into the bag
  14. pipe 1-2″ rounds onto pre-lined baking sheets. keep in mind that macarons will expand as the settle
  15. when done, bang sheets flat against counter a few times to help aerate the macarons
  16. let sit for 20-30 minutes. you will know they are ready when they are dry to a gentle touch of your finger
  17. bake in oven for 14-16 minutes. at 14 minutes, monitor closely to make sure they don’t start getting brown edges
  18. once cooked, the macarons should peel off easily in one piece. if they do not, try cooking them for an extra minute at a time
  19. cool macarons on a cooling rack
  20. fill with your favorite filling – i like to use nutella (when lazy) or vanilla buttercream (when motivated). store overnight in fridge in an airtight ziplock bag to allow flavors to marry before serving

Tips:

  • use a scale and make sure to have everything measured out before you start working
  • whipping the merengue is a delicate art – you don’t want the egg whites runny but you also don’t want to over beat. this will take practice…worst case you over whip and the macarons may become slightly hollow
  • food coloring: macarons are known for their exotic colors. i’ve yet to really experiment with color, mainly because of its  toxic and artificial nature. macarons’ natural color is off-white. in the images above, i dropped (only a few drops) of liquid chlorophyll into the meringue to make it green. all natural coloring, you can get chlorophyll at Whole Foods or a healthy foods store.
  • folding dry ingredients into merengue is also a delicate balance. see this video on how to fold properly
  • once batter is ready, you need to move very quickly with the piping process before it dries out
  • to get perfectly round macarons, you can print out templates and place beneath the parchment paper. make sure you remove them before baking!
  • when piping macarons, the trick i find is to apply downward pressure (straight down at 90 degrees) to release batter, make a circle, and then simultaneously release pressure and quickly yank the tip away
  • the perfect macaron will have the following properties: flat outer surface, well-defined feet and a dense (not hollow) inner layer

Dark Chocolate & Almond Bark

I am a chocolate fiend. That should be no secret considering the dessert section of this blog is exclusively a list of chocolate recipes. One of my favorite chocolate treats is ‘bark’, which, if I didn’t know any better, was named after a doggy treat. I’m not sure what it is about bark that makes it a completely different experience than any other piece of chocolate. Maybe it’s the irregularly shaped chunks that it comes in. It feels imperfectly natural…as if it was a natural food.

The creation of chocolate bark isn’t a recipe as much as it is a reformation of a perfectly shaped piece of chocolate. The process is simple: melt chocolate, add toppings (almonds in this case), re-harden in the fridge and break apart with your hands! It may seem elementary, but the process leads to such a better experience that it makes it totally worthwhile.

Recipe

Serving Size (10-15 pieces)

Estimated time: 1 hour (15 minutes cooking, 45 minutes cooling)

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz your favorite dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup almonds (sliced, whole or chopped…your choice)

What You’ll Need:

  • small, shallow baking pan
  • heatproof bowl
  • small pot
  • parchment paper

Directions:

  1. pour 1″ of water in a pot and bring to a simmer. lower heat to low and create a double broiler (by placing bowl on top of the pot)
  2. break chocolate into smaller pieces and melt in the bowl
  3. once melted, add almonds to the chocolate and stir
  4. line baking sheet with parchment paper
  5. pour melted chocolate into lined baking pan
  6. place into the fridge for 2 hours or freezer for 1 hour
  7. once fully solid, break sheet of chocolate into smaller pieces and serve (break pieces using your hands, but covered in parchment paper to avoid melting)

Mascarpone and Nutella Heaven

I’m proud to be writing about an awesome find in Hoboken this past weekend.

Saturday morning began with a city view blocked by incredibly dense fog over the Hudson River and the sound of a large cruise ship repeatedly blaring its horn (to avoid running over smaller boats, I guess). Nevertheless, the weather forecast called for yet another unseasonably mild winter day (March 20th = first day of Spring). It was the perfect opportunity to transition my 4-mile race (Central Park, first ever race, April 29th) training regimen from the treadmill to the streets. The outdoor air was brisk, crisp and fresh. A great start to the weekend.

Later that day, the Mrs. and I decided to go for a stroll around town and grab a late lunch. One of our stops was Italmoda, our favorite tailor in Hoboken on 6th and Jefferson. It was along that route that we came across a corner BYOB pizza joint called Dozzino. Although technically a pizza restaurant, Dozzino is anything but a stereotypical Hoboken pizzeria. It’s not located on Washington Street and it does not sell pizza by the slice. Its charm, authenticity and minimalist decor drew us in. After sharing a bottle of prosecco and two pies (I ordered a plain pie while Tania ordered something spicy with meat), it was time for dessert – the best part of the meal (and inspiration for this post).

Dozzino had two items on their dessert menu: nutella ice cream and mascarpone/nutella crostini’s. The thought of cheese and dessert didn’t appeal to me so I went for the ice cream (which was delicious). That said, the crostini was even better! The unusual combination of mascarpone and sweet nutella along with a touch of salt created the perfect compliment of flavors and texture. You know that show on Food Network called “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”? This would be on there. It is that good.

By the time I got home, I was determined to recreate this sweet treat. How hard could it be; the name itself included two of the three ingredients. It didn’t take long to come across the exact recipe posted by the owner Marc in an NJ.com article.

Do yourself a favor and try this right now!! No bake dessert that will take you about 30 seconds to create. Serve as a crostini, on a cracker or any way you wish.

Recipe

Serving Size (up to you)

Estimated time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 parts mascarpone cheese
  • 1 part nutella spread
  • toasted sliced baguette or cracker

Directions:

  1. using a spoon, mix nutella and mascarpone in a bowl
  2. spoon mixture onto a baguette or cracker
  3. sprinkle with salt
  4. serve immediately or store in fridge for a few minutes to make sure the cheese is not melted

Brownies

My sweet tooth rages on with this simple staple recipe. Brownies were never a dessert I cared to make. Not because I didn’t want to eat them, but out of fear that they would never come out as good as ‘in the store.’  I always imagined the home-made version to be dry and crumbly and nothing like the moist, gooey kinds I’d see at bakeries.

I put my fear to the test with this recipe that stumbled upon at gilttaste.com. They say to never judge a book by its cover, but I did just that when I read the headline “how to make a better brownie.” In this case, the title said it. It directly implied and addressing the fact that home-made brownies normally do taste like cardboard, but there is, in fact, a solution.

One look at this recipe and you’ll see that there’s not much to making a good brownie. The key is to 1) use fresh ingredients, 2) use European high-fat butter (found in most supermarkets) and 3) not to over cook them.

Recipe

Serving Size (~20 brownies)

Estimated time: 60 minutes (20 minutes prep, 40 minutes cooking)

Ingredients:

  • 5 oz unsalted high butter (European style) butter
  • 5 oz unsweetened dark chocolate
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

What You’ll Need:

  1. 9×9 baking pan
  2. stand mixer

Directions:

  1. preheat oven to 400 F
  2. line baking pan with parchment paper. butter parchment paper and lightly sprinkle it with cocoa powder
  3. cut the butter into small 1″ pieces. break the chocolate into small pieces. place both in a large heat-proof bowl
  4. place the bowl on top of a pot with 1″ of simmering water (double broiler)
  5. melt the butter and chocolate until combined
  6. remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract
  7. separately, beat eggs and salt in a stand mixer
  8. add sugar and beat on high for 10 minutes until mixture turns quite white
  9. reduce speed to low and add melted chocolate to the mixture
  10. slowly add flour to the mixture
  11. pour batter into baking pan and place inside oven. turn temperature down to 350 F immediately
  12. bake for 40 minutes. the inside should be fudge and a toothpick will not come out clean (otherwise you’ve overcooked them!)

Rocky Road Ice Cream

As the holidays come around, the thought of giving (and receiving) comes to my mind. This time of year is extra special for me since it’s also my birthday. This year, I got some really cool gifts: a new macro lens (Canon 100 2.8L macro) and a Cuisinart ice cream maker. I decided to utilize both in my post today. The pic below is that of rocky road ice cream, made in my new toy, and taken with new new lens.

Let me start by saying that an ice cream maker is a must-have kitchen appliance. Those days of dinky plastic ice cream makers are gone. This new generation is amazing and takes 25 minutes to create smoother, more flavorful (and most importantly – natural) ice cream than anything you’ll ever find in a grocery store. With this post as an example, the options are limitless.

My cravings for ice cream are spastic. There are times when I can’t get enough, and other times when I can’t stand it. That said, the one thing I’m always into is rocky road (in any form). I’m not even sure how to truly define rocky road other than to call it a chocolate based food (in this case, chocolate ice cream) with nuts, marshmallows and chocolate chip toppings.

For the ice cream in this recipe, I used Alton Brown’s recipe from Food Network, which is amazingly creamy, especially right out of the machine as a soft serve. The toppings add amazing texture to the ice cream and keep you guessing whether you’re biting down on nuts or chocolate chips.

Recipe

Serving Size (1.5 quarts)

Estimated time: 5 hours (1 hour active, 4 hours wait time)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder, approximately 1/2 cup
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 9 ounces sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds

What You’ll Need:

  • ice cream machine
  • medium pot
  • mixing bowl

Directions:

  1. Place the cocoa powder along with 1 cup of the half-and-half into a medium saucepan over medium heat and whisk to combine
  2. Add the remaining half-and-half and the heavy cream. Bring the mixture just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and remove from the heat.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl whisk the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the sugar and whisk to combine. Temper the cream mixture into the eggs and sugar by gradually adding small amounts, until about 1/3 of the cream mixture has been added. Once tempered, pour in the remainder.
  4. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and place over low heat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon and reaches 170 to 175 degrees F.
  5. Strain the mixture into a container and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  6. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  7. Place the mixture into the refrigerator and once it is cool enough not to form condensation on the lid, cover and store for 4 to 8 hours or until the temperature reaches 40 degrees F or below. Place in freezer to expedite the process.
  8. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. This should take approximately 25 to 35 minutes.
  9. Add toppings (nuts, chocolate chips, marshmallows) 5 minutes before the ice cream is done.
  10. Serve as is for soft serve or freeze for another 3 to 4 hours to allow the ice cream to harden.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

It’s time to get seasonal with a silky smooth pumpkin cheesecake that will make your house smell like Fall. I discovered this recipe on the Food Network almost a year ago to the day. The end-result was so popular that I ended up making several more batches. I never thought, not even in my wildest dreams, that I’d be making a cheesecake in my own kitchen. I just figured it was one of those things that could only be made by a professional…with a bit white hat…and fancy equipment…in a restaurant!

As I reflect on the past year and the culinary advancements that I have made in our modest Hoboken apartment kitchen, I can’t help but recount my cheesecake making adventures and their meaning to my development.

As I was saying, the thought of making a cheesecake, at the time, was inconceivable. Hell, I didn’t even LIKE cheesecake (or pumpkin, for the matter). Why would voluntarily go through the trouble of making something that I didn’t even want to eat?  Not sure I can answer that question but that is exactly how it went down. Chalk it up to being in the zone, but I was on a mission to make that damn cheesecake, make our apartment fragrant, and be on with my day!  Worst case, I’d toss the evidence and be out $15 of ingredients. Nobody would ever know.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. I became motivated to further perfect the process. Since the demand was there (April requested one for her birthday, which wasn’t for another five months), I figured I could make a cheesecake, cut it into pieces and pawn off to friends and family.  I learned a few important lessons (many the hard way), like what a spring-formpan is and how to keep the cake from cracking.  Most importantly, I learned not to let fear get in my way.

Recipe

Serving Size (9″ cake)

Estimated time: 6 1/2 hours (20 minutes prep, 2 hour + 15 mins cooking, 4 hours resting)

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick melted butter (I use unsalted, 1 minute in microwave)
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature (use no-name brand to save $$)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin, found in the baking section of your supermarket
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, beaten in a small bowl
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*green highlight denotes ingredients you will likely need to buy fresh while black text includes ingredients you should either have stocked in your pantry or ingredients that have a lengthy shelf life.

What You’ll Need:

  • food processor
  • hand or stand mixer
  • springform pan
  • (optional) parchment paper
  • (optional) roasting pan large enough to fit a spring form pan
  • (optional) heavy duty aluminum foil (extra long, 18″)

Directions:

  1. pre-heat oven to 350 F
  2. fill roasting pan 1/2 full with water. pour that water into a pot and bring it to a boil
  3. line the bottom of the spring-form pan with parchment paper. this will allow you to transfer the cake off of the pan later on
  4. pulverize graham crackers in a food processor. in a small mixing bowl, combine gram cracker crumbs, light brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter
  5. using your hands, pour crust mixture into a springform pan and press along the bottom creating a solid, even crust
  6. time to make the filling. start by breaking the cream cheese into small 1-2″ squares (using your hands). this will help bring it to room temperature. put into a microwave in 10 second intervals until the cream cheese is soft, but not melted (should take around 30 seconds, give or take)
  7. blend the cream cheese in a mixer until smooth
  8. add pumpkin puree, sour cream, sugar and spices and blend on low speed
  9. add eggs and egg yolk and stir slowly by hand until combined (see tips below on why it’s important to stir slowly, and by hand)
  10. add flour and vanilla and stir slowly by hand until combined
  11. pour the filling into the springform pan and onto the crust. watch out for the last drops of the filling – it will have chunks of cheesecake which you don’t want. just throw that part out
  12. time to prepare the cake for the bath. carefully wrap the springform pan with 2 whole sheets of aluminum foil (should have pieces big enough to cover the entire pan) making sure to bring the sheet all the way up the rim. do not leave cracks or areas for water to seep through the aluminum along the sides or bottom of the pan. here’s a good video tutorial on prepping a cheesecake for water bath
  13. carefully pour the boiling water (from step 2) into the roasting pan. slowly set the springform pan into the water bath and carefully place the roasting pan into the oven (middle rack)
  14. cook at 350 F for 1 hour and 15 minutes. do not open the oven door!
  15. (you didn’t open the oven door, right? good!) turn off the heat and cook in the residual heat in the oven for another 1 hour
  16. remove cheesecake pan from the oven. once cool to room temperature (30 minutes), place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. do not put plastic wrap onto a warm cheesecake as it will condensate and make the cake soggy
  17. once cooled in fridge and ready to be eaten, take a thin knife, run in hot water, dry it and run around the inner rim of the cheesecake. carefully unlock and remove the springform ring. you may need to run a knife around the edges one more time to loosen the cheesecake from the ring. check out this video on how it’s done

Tips:

  • you can simplify the process by skipping the water bath (steps 2, 12, 14) and baking the springform pan directly in the oven for 1 hour
  • the reason I prefer to use a water bath is it keeps the cheesecake from cracking. you can read more on cracking here. no impact on the taste…purely aesthetic
  • lining the pan with parchment paper: trace the bottom piece of the springform pan with a pencil and cut out the circle from the parchment paper
  • once eggs are added to the batter, it’s important to mix very slowly to keep the batter from getting whipped. this will help keep the form of the cheesecake once cooked
  • when cutting the cheesecake, always use a knife that’s been soaked in warm water and then immediately dried

Adventures in Cupcake Decoration

I am dangerous. I am a thug. I am a baaaaad man…

You should know that I am so gangster that I drank water at a house party last night so I could be fresh and ready for my 10am Sunday morning cupcake decorating class.  Was I was the only guy in the class? Yup. Did I make Will Ferrell’s character in Old School look good? You betcha!

In the mood for a culinary adventure, I recently signed us up for a family cooking class at the world renown French Culinary Institute in NY. The class we I selected was Cupcake Decorating. Why cupcake decorating? Well, cupcakes are the culinary trend du-jour, for one. I also felt that, by learning the intricacies of cupcake making, that we would be able to display our creativity in bite sized, yet hard to resist desserts. I’m big into sharing; what better way of showing affection than pawning off a dozen cupcakes to someone you love.

The class ended up being a lot of fun. I, for one, learned a ton on ganache, fondant, and butter. The irony in all of this, as I eventually came to realize, is that I’m a simpleton and not one for overly elaborate decorations. That’s not to say I didn’t go with the flow, because I did. I made bows and cut multi-colored shapes, polka-dots and what not. But in the end, what really got me going was learning how to properly pipe frosting onto a cupcake and drizzling melted chocolate ganache in a random yet calculated motion.  Stay tuned for future recipes. For now, feel free to feast on a recent cupcake post.


Chocolate Cupcakes

Today’s special ingredient is chocolate. This is the third dessert installment on clookbook.com. All chocolate, all the time. If you read Holy Guacamole, you’ll know that I am a self-proclaimed food purist. My position is even more extreme when it comes to chocolate, the holiest food in the land. With only a handful of exceptions, I consider the contamination combination of fruit with chocolate to be an outright sin. Each has a place in my heart (and on my palette) but in total isolation. Chocolate is a treat, a guilty pleasure. Why someone would willingly disorient their taste buds by diluting the wonders of chocolate with fruit is beyond me. I see this no different than making pizza your last meal on earth and spoiling it with some broccoli florets as a topping. Some see fruit as a refreshing compliment to chocolate. Next time, try subbing for some whipped cream.

Alright. With that rant behind me, onto the recipe at hand. Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting. Great and dangerously addictive. A fun weekend activity to really slow things down. Caution – there’s enough batter here to make a ton of cupcakes. I’d make 24 mini’s and toss the rest. Trust me, you don’t want that many cupcakes lying around the house…nothing good will come out of it (unless you have some helpless guests willing and able to take them off your hands).

Adapted from Ina Garten’s cake version with a few slight modifications.

Recipe

Serving Size (24 mini cupcakes)

Estimated time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:

Cake Batter

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons, all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons, cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon, baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon, baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon, kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup, milk
  • 1/4 cup, vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon, vanilla extract

Frosting

  • 3 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate bar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature (if microwaving to room temperature, do so very carefully…5 seconds at a time at 1/2 power…should take 20 seconds max.  DO NOT MELT THE BUTTER!)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

What You’ll Need:

Directions:

Chocolate Cupcake Batter

  1. preheat oven to 350 F
  2. sift dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa,baking soda, baking powder, salt) into a mixing bowl
  3. pour wet ingredients into a bowl and mix on low speed using paddle attachment. add dry ingredients and mix until combined
  4. place paper cups into the plan slots
  5. pour battre into each cup filling up to 2/3 of the cup. the baking soda/powder will leaven the batter once in the oven
  6. place tray into oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of a cupcake clean
  7. remove and cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan and then remove from the pan (to cool completely)

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  1. once the cupcakes are cool, it’s time to decorate them with the buttercream frosting
  2. create a double-broiler by placing 1″ of water in a pot, bringing it to a simmer, and placing a bowl on top of it
  3. break chocolate into small pieces and melt in the bowl (will take 5-10 mins after the water is simmering)
  4. meanwhile, whip butter for 1-2 minutes in a separate mixing bowl using a mixer on medium/high speed
  5. slowly add powdered sugar, whipping the frosting
  6. once chocolate is melted, let it cool to room temperature. you can use the freezer or fridge, but be careful not to let it solidify (or you have to re-melt it)!
  7. add chocolate into the frosting bowl and whip until combined
  8. frosting is done. you can decorate the  (cooled) cupcakes using either a decorating tool (see “what you’ll need” above) or a regular butter knife…your choice
Tips:
  • keep the cupcakes in the fridge. to serve, leave out for 10-20 minutes until the frosting softens
  • store the baking soda in an air tight plastic bag. this extends the life beyond 30 days

Chocolate Mousse Heaven

I’m a chocolate addict. If it were socially acceptable, I would drape myself in chocolate. One of my favorite varieties of chocolate is mousse. Silky smooth and doesn’t leave you overly stuffed.

I spotted this recipe in the Joy of Baking catalog. From everything I’ve seen, this is the best and purest mousse recipe on the planet.  While it’s not exactly healthy, it’s not terrible for you, either.  I think you can easily stretch this recipe to 6 servings or more, assuming you can get you hands on some small serving bowls or containers (shot glass?). The chocolate is very rich and a few spoonfuls is more than satisfying.

Recipe

Serving Size (4 people)

Estimated time: 60 minutes (30 minutes prep, 30 minutes wait)

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate  (or a combination of your choice); 4 oz is 1 baking bar; again, I prefer Ghiradelli brand
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons powdered (confectioners) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • chocolate shavings

*green highlight denotes ingredients you will likely need to buy fresh while black text includes ingredients you should either have stocked in your pantry or ingredients that have a lengthy shelf life.

What You’ll Need:

  • whisk and/or mixer (stand or hand)
  • 3 bowls
  • 1 pot

Directions:

  1. create a double broiler: pour 1/2 inch of water into a pot and place a bowl (glass or metal) on top of it so the bowl does not touch the water
  2. turn on low heat just enough to get the water hot
  3. break chocolate into small pieces and throw into the double broiler bowl along with the butter (preferably cut into smaller pieces, too)
  4. the butter/chocolate mixture will begin to melt. keep an eye on it and stir occasionally (this will take 5-10 minutes in total)
  5. once butter/chocolate is melted and combined, remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. stir in 2 egg yolks and place in fridge while you whip up the egg whites and whipped cream (in separate bowls)
  6. in a separate bowl, take 2 egg whites and mix with cream of tartar until foamy. best if you use a hand mixer here, but you can use a whisk, too
  7. once foamy, slowly add 2 tablespoons of sugar and mix/whisk until you reach soft peaks (again, using a hand mixer of whisk manually)
  8. in a another bowl, whisk (or using a hand mixer) 1/2 cup of heavy cream, 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla extract until you reach soft peaks
  9. remove chocolate mixture from fridge and stir in a few tablespoons of the egg white mixture. fold in the remaining egg whites. (video on folding)
  10. fold in the whipped cream using the same technique
  11. spoon the mousse into serving cups and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving
  12. to garnish, you can whip up some more whipped cream (same process as before) and place on top of mousse
  13. you can also create some chocolate shavings. to do so, take a vegetable peeler and peel the edge of a chocolate  bar with shavings falling into a bowl

A Sweet Treat

This is for all you choco-halics out there (yep, I’m raising my hand). As someone who’s conscious of his health, I generally refrain from making these. Such is my form of will-power – no cookies, no worries. Once they’re made, however, it’s GAME-OVER.

Having said that, my wife’s sweet tooth often gets the best of her (yes – it’s all her fault), especially after an insane day of work where all she wants to do is unwind and indulge in a fresh baked, over-the-top, yet relatively less unhealthy chocolate chip cookie. These guys are more like brownies in the shape of a cookie – truly the best of both worlds.

Nothing beats a little milk ‘n cookies to get you through the mid-week doldrums.

Another recipe out of Ellie Krieger’s book.

 

Recipe

Serving Size (15 cookies)

Estimated time: 30 minutes (10 mins prep, 12 mins baking, 10 mins wait)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (white)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Appliances:

  • stand mixer (I have a KitchenAid Artisan)
  • sifter (I use a strainer…works well)
  • baking sheet

Directions:

  1. pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  2. start by mixing wet ingredients in mixer on low/medium speed: white, brown sugar and butter. note: make sure the butter is not melted and at room temperature. if coming out of the fridge, i like to nuke it for 30-60 seconds at a low/medium power setting. better to start slow…do not melt the butter.
  3. add the egg and oil and continue mixing. then add vanilla.
  4. in a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flours, cocoa powder)
  5. with the mixer off, sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  6. with dry ingredients in the mixer, turn mixer on low until wet and dry ingredients are well combined (1-2 mins).
  7. add the chocolate chips
  8. turn off and unplug mixer. using a small spoon, for balls of dough onto the baking sheet.
  9. bake for 12 minutes at 350 F
  10. when done baking, let set for 2 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack for another 10 minutes

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