Sunday, December 13, 2009
Since this is the first Christmas since I started my blog, I decided to include one of the recipes from BFMHTY in the gift roster. I chose the meringue cookies because the picture in the cookbook was very appealing, and I needed one more chocolatey cookie to balance out the cookie list.
Meringues are made from whipped egg whites, and this particular recipe calls for cocoa, almonds and bittersweet chocolate to be added. Egg whites can be notoriously tempermental because so much can go wrong. If the bowl you're using for whipping isn't clean, if you end up with yolks bleeding into your eggs whites during separation, if you overbeat the whites, all of this can lead to disaster.
These cookies were the very last treat to be made during this crazy weekend, and frankly, by the time I got around to seperating the eggs, I couldn't have cared less if something went wrong. I was just too tired to care. I got a little of the yolk into my whites, and that caused a little whining on my part, but I was determined to press on and if the cookies failed...so what.
I whipped the whites, sugar and salt. I folded the cocoa, flour, chocolate pieces and ground almonds into the mixture. I spooned out extremely sticky dollops onto painstakingly prepared pans ( I love Silpats and parchment paper so much, you'll never even know), and baked them off.
Visually the end product looks a little like cocoa colored rocks. But when you taste them, oh my. To spite my lackadaisical attitude during the preparation of the recipe, they turned out perfectly. This is a light, airy delicate cookie. When you bite into the crispy outer shell cracks, and almost shatters. It's a very nice texture. Once you hit the inside of the cookie the filling is slightly chewy and sticky. This cookie is not overly sweet, but you do get a wonderful cocoa flavor out of each bite. They're like eating little clouds.
Since these cookies are so delicate, I fear that they will not travel very well. So, at least one of my friends will not be getting this treat included with the rest of the Christmas package. Sorry Crystal, there's no way these things can survive a trip to Maryland. :(
I think I may have underbaked these meringues just a little. In the cookbook pic all the cookies have cracked, jagged looking tops, my didn't turn out that way. But I'm still really happy with the result.
I've posted the recipe below along with a pic or two of some of the other confections that we gave as gifts this year.
(makes about 30 cookies)
1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/3 cup finely ground blanched almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Sift confectioners' sugar, ground almonds and cocoa. Set aside dry ingredients.
In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt until the whites are opaque. Increase to medium-high speed and continue to whip while adding the granulated sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue whipping until the whites are shiny and hold a stiff peak. Beat in vanilla extract.
Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in the dry ingredients with a large rubber spatula. The whites will deflate a little bit, but fold quickly and gently to minimize the deflation.
Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls onto your prepared baking sheets spacing them about 2 inches apart. Dust the tops lightly with confectioners' sugar.
Bake at 300F for 10 minutes, then, without opening the oven door, lower the temperature to 200F and bake for 1 hour more. Remove from oven and allow meringues to cool completely on the baking sheet. Carefully peel meringues off the parchment. If desired, dust with a little more confectioners' sugar before serving.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Once again Dorie Greenspan has taken an familiar food and attempted to give it a unique twist. Not quite a desconstruction, but more like an experiment where the stakes are not very high if you fail.
The crust on the squares is described in the cookbook as having a "buttery shortbread" flavor. It's not quite as buttery as a true shortbread, but I understand what she's shooting for here as far as taste goes. The crust is fairly easy to make with basic ingredients that most bakers keep on hand. While the dough was still in it's raw form I don't feel that I pressed it down into the pan quite hard enough. I used a very light hand because I have a bad habit of pressing the dough too hard and it then comes out of the oven with the conistency of drywall. So, this time I was determined to change my evil ways (baby). I guess I went too far in the other direction, because the "shortbread" came out a little too loose and crumbly. The texture is quite nice, but when you're trying to eat the bar it wants to collapse in your hand.
Once the base cools you then spread store bought dulce de leche over the crust.
You've heard me drone on in my other posts about living in Hickelvania, and not being able to find "exotic" ingredients. This time was no different. I considered ordering the dulce de leche from the internet, and then was saved the shipping charges by my well timed and much needed vacation to Florida
While in Florida I easily found the canned dulce de leche, and thanks to my mother-in-law brought back a large cache with me. Let us all take a moment and give a shout out to my MIL, who just happens to be AWESOME. Hi Carol :)
Anyway, the dulce is just a very firm, sweet caramel in a can. It's really not a good idea to try using a substitute ingredient here. This is not that lame ass ice cream topping people, this is potent stuff! You also make your own candy coating that is used to cover peanuts with. As the cookbook says, the nuts, once coated, should taste similar to Cracker Jack peanuts, and lo and behold, they do. You press the peanuts into the dulce de leche, then top the whole thing with melted, bittersweet chocolate.
Let me say, the bittersweet chocolate is a great call on this recipe. Any other type of chocolate in conjunction with the extremely sweet dulce de leche, would have made for an overwhelmingly sweet dessert and could have ruined this very nice cookie bar.
The cookbook picture shows the squares sitting beside a tall, cold glass of milk. I advise having a glass of milk nearby while you eat these too. The milk helped with the intense richness of the overall experience.
I say that you give making these bars a shot, just keep your mitts off my dulce de leche stash.