The Long and Shortbread of It

We love shortbread cookies, and we love chocolate. Combining the two is a step from ecstasy. Also, this gave me the excuse… I mean opportunity… to use the hexagonal cookie cutters Fran (aka QC) bought me.

Using hexagonal cutters reduces dough waste as there are no gaps between each cut.

Hexagonal Cookie Cutters with the one used on the lower right.
Shortbread Cookies surrounded by Raspberry Hand Pies.

Shortbread Cookies

INGREDIENTS
• 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl place over a pan of boiling water. Turn the burner down to simmer and heat with stirring until the chocolate is nearly all melted. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.
  6. Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.

Raspberry Drop Scones and Blackberry Hand Pies

As mentioned elsewhere days without golf can be dangerous. Along with a new Pumpernickel/Rye Bread and High Hydration Honey White Bread I tried a new puff pastry to make blackberry hand pies and raspberry drop scones to freeze and thaw for breakfast.

The more important thing is I was able to try out my new hexagonal cookie cutter. I never liked the square, or triangular (folded squares) hand pies. Circular were good, but the space between the circles wasted a lot of puff pastry. The hexagonal cutter was nearly as efficient as cutting squares, but look more like round pies.

My new hexagonal cookie cutters

I used a larger cutter for the top to assure good coverage of the smaller bottom. I docked the bottom piece with a fork to manage the puff of the pastry.

The edges of the covered pies were pinched with the fork, and egg wash painted on, a steam vent cut on the top and sparkling sugar sprinkled on each pie before baking.

I’d Give $1000 to be One of Them Millionaires

I saw these on GBBO and decided to give them a go. (Kind of English slang for “try to make them”.) Millionaires Bars are layers of shortbread, caramel and chocolate.

I used a jelly roll pan, which is about 25% bigger than the specified pan. This caused each layer to be thinner than I expected. As they were setting I considered increasing the recipe quantities by about 50%. After cutting and eating them I think I am going to leave them the way they are. They ended up being about 1/4” thick and if I cut them into 1” square pieces they will be perfect bite sized pieces.

Self induced problems: 1) Forgot to use the parchment paper making me worry about releasing the bar from the jelly roll pan. No problem. I cut around the outside and across the center. Each large piece came out easily. 2) I should have poured the chocolate on the caramel before it set. Not doing so caused the chocolate to not adhere to the caramel. Cutting the bars into 1” squares, so you can just pop them into your mouth without taking a bite and “breaking” them, converts the problem into an enhancement.

Overall, these are delicious cookies. The caramel was heated to 242 deg which made it a perfect softness and texture. The chocolate wasn’t tempered but resulted in a nice layer with a good snap. The short bread base was difficult to push to the edges of the pan, but perhaps rolling it out before placing in the pan would help. I also skipped the macadamia nuts as my pantry was bare. If you saw my pantry, you wouldn’t believe that possible.

Millionaire Shortbread Bars

Millionaire Shortbread Bars

Paul Hollywood’s Salted Caramel Bars

https://people.com/food/paul-hollywood-salted-caramel-bars-recipe/

INGREDIENTS
• ⅓ cup granulated sugar
• 1⅓ cups unsalted butter, softened and divided, plus more for greasing
• 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ tsp. table salt
• ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
• ⅓ cup sweetened condensed milk
• 3 tbsp. golden cane syrup (or honey as a substitute)
• 1 tsp. flaky sea salt
• 7 oz. dark chocolate baking bar, chopped
• ½ cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 300°. Grease a shallow 11×7-inch baking dish with butter.
  2. Line baking dish with parchment paper, allowing paper to extend by 2 inches on each side; grease parchment.
  3. Beat granulated sugar and 2/3 cup butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add flour and table salt; stir with a spoon, and then combine with your hands to form a smooth dough (try not to overwork it). I ended up adding a couple of Tbl water to the dough so it would come together,
  4. Press dough into pan in an even layer, and prick surface all over with a fork. Bake in preheated oven until pale golden and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan, about 45 minutes.
  5. Combine brown sugar, condensed milk, golden syrup (or honey) and remaining 2/3 cup butter in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until butter melts and mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until the caramel bubbles become larger, mixture thickens and turns a rich, glossy caramel color, about 10 to 12 minutes. Pour caramel evenly over the shortbread, and sprinkle with sea salt. Cool completely until set, about 1 hour.
  6. Melt chocolate, stirring often, in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Pour melted chocolate evenly over caramel layer; spread with an offset spatula until level and smooth. Sprinkle with nuts. Let stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour. Use a knife to release ends of bars from pan; use the parchment paper as handle to remove from pan. Cut into bars.

(Cream) Puff the Magic…

I saw a recipe and “how to” video on making cream puffs. I usually make my choux into eclairs or profiteroles, but thought some sweet whipped cream filling would be a nice change.

Natasha Kravchuk used 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk instead of just a cup of water. Unlike Natasha, I used an egg wash to darken the tops and give the choux a nice sheen. Other than that, it was the same recipe I normally use. Same with the whipped cream except she used 2x the amount of sugar and vanilla. She also piped the whipped cream leaving the center empty. She (and I ) added a fresh raspberry inside before covering with the cut off top.

Also, I saw a hint to wet the parchment paper before piping the choux. I am not sure if it made a difference but the choux rose nicely and didn’t collapse. A few did have bottoms that bowed in. They were sent to QC for evaluation. We were so concerned we sent a larger number of samples than usual.

Twist and Shout – With Chocolate

In a continuing search for places to use chocolate I found Chocolate Torsades. The name derives from the French ‘tornado’ for ‘twist.’

There really isn’t a recipe for this. I used my creme patisserie recipe from the eclairs, (I had some left over.) I also had a leftover sheet of puff pastry, and of course lots of existing chocolate. (Still trying to exhaust the old stock.)

French Chocolate Torsades (Puff Pastry Twists)

INGREDIENTS
• 4 egg yolks
• 1/2 cup of sugar
• 2 tablespoons of flour
• 1 1/2 cups of milk
• 1/2 tablespoons of vanilla
• 1 tablespoon of butter
• 1/4 teaspoon of salt
• 1 sheet Puff pastry (270 g)
• Chocolate chips dark or milk
• 1 egg for egg wash
• Sparkling sugar

METHOD
For the custard

  1. Whisk eggs and milk together and add to all other ingredients (except vanilla) to a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring to boil whisking constantly
  3. Cook until thickened (it will look lumpy, its ok)
  4. Sieve lumpy mixture into a bowl and add 1 tsp vanilla, mix thoroughly
  5. When incorporated, cover with plastic directly on the cream and cool.

    For the Chocolate Torsades
  6. Preheat oven to 410 degrees (215 Celsius)
  7. Roll out puff pastry about 14 inches long or just use the store bought roll
  8. Spread a thin layer of the vanilla custard on top
  9. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top
  10. Fold in half and cut into strips
  11. Twist each strip a few times to create the twist
  12. Whisk one egg in a small bowl and brush the tops of the twists with the egg wash
  13. Place chocolate torsades on baking sheet with parchment paper
  14. Sprinkle with sparkling sugar
  15. Bake at 400 degrees (215 Celsius) for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Long Chocolate Buns

I saw a picture of an elongated bread roll, like a hot dog roll, but slashed with a lame and the slashes were filled with lemon curd before baking. Well, I couldn’t find the recipe so decided to create my own. This is the first time I have stepped out of my chemist-trained-recipe-following comfort zone.

I also decided, since I don’t really care for lemon curd, I would instead roll chocolate ala pain au chocolat but using an enriched bread dough instead of puff pastry. This was also an excuse to use some of the 11# of chocolate I bought a couple of weeks ago.

The QC department suggested a less bitter chocolate (64% cacao) and sparkling sugar topping (good suggestion.) QC will have to live with 64% as I do have 11 pounds. Manufacturing suggested no chop the chocolate so small. Something the size of chocolate chips should melt fine and be easier to handle.

Chocolate Filled Bread Buns

INGREDIENTS
• 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
• 1 cup barely warm milk
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons butter, melted
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoons salt
• 2 eggs, one for dough, one for egg wash
• 1 tablespoon orange zest
• 165g, about 1 cup (4-6 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chopped fine (pulse in a food processor)

METHOD

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter, sugar, salt, egg, and orange zest. Stir until blended and fragrant.
  3. Add 3 cups of flour and mix until the dough comes together. It will be sticky! On a lightly floured surface knead the dough until soft and elastic (about 8 minutes), adding more flour to keep the dough from sticking if necessary. Do not add too much flour! The dough will become more workable the longer you knead. Or, if you have a standing mixer, knead the dough with the dough attachment for 5-7 minutes, or until elastic.
  4. Transfer the kneaded dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm area until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.
  5. Punch dough down, divide into 12 equal portions, and shape each portion into a round ball. Flatten into an oval then roll to ¼ “ thick rectangle.
  6. Place a stripe of chocolate ½ “ from long end of rectangle. Roll to cover chocolate and place a second stripe of chocolate. Roll up and seal edges and all seams.
  7. Place rolls a on baking sheet coated lightly with cooking spray. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise for another 20 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  9. Slash diagonally 4x with lame.
  10. Brush 1 egg wash over the rolls. Sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar.
  11. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Un-Hasty Pudding

Well, it ain’t instant pudding, but is sooooo much better!! I made this pudding a couple of times before, each time seemed better than the previous.

If you have read some earlier posts you know I have an 11 lb bag of new chocolate just waiting its turn. I decided to use some of the 70% I had opened (finished it!) to make this home made pudding. It takes a little time and most of it is hands on, but it is so worth it. If you like chocolate and if you don’t mind whisking constantly for a few minutes, try this. It’s delicious. I forgot where I found the recipe and frankly, I don’t care.

A dab of whipped cream would have helped the picture, but we couldn’t wait.

Chocolate Pudding from Scratch

Makes 4 cups; serves 8

INGREDIENTS
• 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
• 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 3 large egg yolks
• 2 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Use a serrated knife to chop the chocolate into fine flakes; set aside.
  2. Whisk the cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt together in a large, heatproof bowl. Slowly whisk in the cream, a little at a time, until you have a smooth mixture.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks into the cream and cornstarch mixture.
  4. Pour the milk into a 3-quart (or larger) saucepan. Add the sugar and warm over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Bring the milk to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Watch for the surface of the milk to vibrate and for bubbles to form around the edges of the pot.
  6. To temper the eggs, slowly pour most of the hot milk into the bowl of cream and egg yolks. Whisk until well-combined, then pour everything back into the pot.
  7. Bring the mixture to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. (It should look like lava boiling up!) At this point, the pudding will look much thicker.
  8. Cook for 2 minutes more, whisking constantly and vigorously. Get your whisk into all corners of the pot.
  9. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Add the chopped chocolate and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes or until melted. Whisk vigorously until the chocolate is fully incorporated.
  10. Transfer the pudding to a storage container and press plastic wrap or wax paper directly onto the surface of the pudding. Cover with a lid and refrigerate.

A Day In The Life – Act I

So, I started the morning with Pain Au Chocolat, (making, not eating.) I have some opened chocolate I need to use before I open the new bag. To me, baking is a hobby so I like to make everything I can from scratch. I don’t use mixes or other short cuts…. except for puff pastry. In the past I made puff pastry a few times and must admit that what I make is not nearly as good as what is available in the super market.

I buy two brands of puff pastry. Trader Joe sells a box with two 10”x10” sheets. TJ’s is good when you don’t want a huge puff when baked. If you knock it before baking it will puff less than 100%, which is what I used for todays pastry. Pepperidge Farms puff pastry also comes in two sheets per box, but each sheet is conveniently individually wrapped. This pastry puffs 200% if baked without knocking, a little less if you do. Pepperidge Farms is available year round, while TJ’s is only available from roughly Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Buy a few boxes and put them in the bottom of your freezer. I do.

Using Trader Joe’s puff pastry makes Pain Au Chocolat a snap. There is the added benefit it is also delicious.

Pain au Chocolate


INGREDIENTS
Puff pastry (Trader Joe’s)
Chocolate ( I used Guittard’s 63%)
Confectioner’s sugar

METHOD

  1. Roll out puff pastry
  2. Dust with confectioner’s sugar
  3. Cut into 2” wide (Trader Joe’s Puff Pastry – cut 5 long strips, then cut each in half)
  4. Lay chocolate at one end, roll one time, press down gently and roll again, press gently again
  5. Add second row of chocolate and roll one last time, press gently
  6. Chill overnight or at least 2 hours.
  7. Brush with egg wash
  8. Bake 360 deg 20-25 min on parchment lined baking sheet

Straight Down the Middle

As we near the end (of some peoples playing season,) one of my golf buddies invited our foursome and families over for a patio dinner before the weather starts turning cold(er). I offered to bring a cake along to the dinner. This is what I made this morning

It’s my extreme chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

The trees are gum-paste cones made by wrapping thin gum-paste around a form, then set to dry overnight.

Of course, I rarely hit it straight down the middle!!

Ahh… ahh… Choux

No, I don’t have a cold. It is cold here, below freezing at dawn, but it warming to the high 40’s to mid 50’s in the afternoon. When the sun is out it is beautiful. When its raining… well there is nothing like a 40 deg rain to keep one inside and baking.

Normally, I make my cream puffs with choux, creme pat and chocolate ganache. I thought this time I would make a lighter pastry with sweet chocolate and vanilla whipped cream filling, and with deference to the season, decided to stack them like a snowman. (Full disclosure: I saw them on the final of The Great American Baking Show and thought they looked amazing and I never have a problem with the baked choux sticking to the parchment paper like Amanda Faber did. Hmmm.)template

I drew a template of circles 1.75″ and 0.75″ diameter on one side of a piece of parchment
paper. The paper was then placed, pencil side down on a double thick cookie sheet and set aside.

Choux Pastry

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ c (65 grams) AP flour
  • ½ tsp granulated white sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp (55 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ c (120 ml) water
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tbl water to glaze (optional

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 400o F (200o C) and place rack in center of oven.
  2. In a bowl whisk the flour with the sugar and salt.
  3. Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil.cooling-choux
  4. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture, all at once, and stir until combined. It will look like mashed potatoes. Return saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). The dough will film the bottom and sides of the saucepan and make cleaning a pain.
  5. Transfer the dough to an electric mixer and beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about 1 minute). Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will piped-chouxseparate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon).
  6. Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe disks, alternating sizes onto the parchment lined baking
    sheet. (Hold the bag at a 90-degree angle and pipe disks.) Alternate sizes so you don’t end up with all large or small disks. If baked-chouxdesired, with a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the dough with the lightly beaten egg.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350o F (180o C).
  8. Remove from oven, pierce an end of each éclair with a small skewer to release the holes-in-chouxinterior steam.

Chocolate Whipped Cream

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

METHOD

  1. Place a metal mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove the bowl from the freezer. Add the heavy cream, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar, and beat with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, or until stiff peaks form / it’s scoop-able with a spoon and holds its shape.
  3. Place leftovers in a container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Sweet Vanilla Whipped Cream

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Pour the cream into a well-chilled bowl and add the sugar and vanilla.
  2. Using an electric hand mixer or balloon whisk, beat the cream to the desired consistency.
  3. For soft peaks, the cream will be just thick enough to hold its shape in soft billows.
  4. For stiffly beaten cream, the beaters or whisk wires will leave distinct traces on the cream and stand in firm peaks when the beaters are lifted.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Fill large puffs with chocolate whipped cream and small ones with vanilla.
  2. Pipe a swirl of vanilla whipped cream on top of the large puff
  3. Place small, filled puff on top of large one using the swirl of whipped cream as a binder.
  4. Drizzle with ganache
  5. Top with a berry, if you have any. A dab of whipped cream piped on top would be good also.completed-choux-dessertchoux-showing-filling