Tag Archives: Chocolate

Triple Coconut Macaroons

pyramid 2 625 sqThese are my absolute favourite macaroons. That’s macaroon, with 2 o’s – the coconut variety, not the pain-in-the-ass Diva, ground almond and meringue variety, which are macarons, with one o. This recipe for Triple Coconut Macaroons, comes from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. I have been making these since the recipe first came out in 2000. Why I have waited so long to share with you is a mystery to me. I promise you, I’m reallly not a petty person.

Although I could make them any time of year, I always associate coconut macaroons with Passover. As a child we bought our macaroons from Open Window Bakery in Toronto. They made both vanilla and chocolate coconut macaroons. I preferred the simplicity of the vanilla ones. I found the chocolate ones too chocolatey for me. The cocoa powder masked the flavour of the coconut, which is exactly the point of coconut macaroons. I always felt sorry for those families that had to get their macaroon fix from the can. They were gummy and chewy, in short, just awful.
00091_chocolatemacaroons_10coconut macaroons in can
The quintessential coconut macaroon is slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, without being gluey. They should be sweet, but not cloyingly so, and they should be bursting with shreds of sweetened coconut. A final dip in a melted chocolate bath, to cover the lower third of the macaroon would not be a bad thing.
in polka dot bowl
Cook’s Illustrated’s test kitchen discovered that the choice of coconut in the macaroon makes a big difference in both taste and texture. Unsweetened shredded coconut, which is drier than sweetened, solved the gluey texture issue.  Sweetened shredded coconut packed more flavor than unsweetened, and together they worked very well. To add one more layer of coconut flavor, they tried cream of coconut and cracked the coconut macaroon code.

Cream of coconut, is not to be confused with coconut cream or coconut milk. Here is a little coconut product primer:
coconut milkcream of coconutKTC-Creamed-Coconut-Big
Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water. Coconut cream is made by simmering equal parts of shredded coconut and water until frothy,  then straining the mixture through a cheesecloth, squeezing out as much liquid as possible; this is coconut milk. The coconut milk is refrigerated and allowed to set. Coconut cream is the thick non-liquid part that separates and rises to the top of the coconut milk.

Cream of coconut is coconut cream that has been sweetened. It is used most commonly in piña coladas. This is the one you want for this recipe. I usually find it in Asian supermarkets, although some larger stores carry it in the drinks aisle.

Creamed coconut is a compressed block of coconut flesh which has been slightly dehydrated and sold in a waxy lump.

This recipe does contain corn syrup, so if you keep strictly Kosher for Passover, here is a recipe for a corn syrup alternative.

Lately, there has been much written about the evils of high fructose corn syrup. This is not the same as the regular corn syrup you buy for baking. If you are at all concerned and want to know more about the science behind it, this article clears up the confusion.

The canned cream of coconut has liquid at the bottom, so it is best to empty it out into a bowl and mix it up with a spoon before measuring and adding to the batter.
Adding cream of coconutadding coconut
The batter should be chilled for about 15 minutes before shaping macaroons. here is a video demonstrating how to shape them.


The chocolate should be chopped fairly fine. I melt about 3/4 of it in the microwave on medium power. When it is totally melted, stir in the remaining 1/4 of chocolate. This is a quick and dirty tempering method but it works quite well.chopping milk chocolatemelting milk chocolateadding second amount of chocolate
I like to dip the bottom third of the cookies in chocolate.
dippingput on parchment

dipped

Click here to print recipe for Triple Coconut Macaroons.

in polka dot bowl

 

Blondes have more fun and Blonde Chocolate Ganache Macarons.

macarons in bowl 1

 

in egg holder square for blog

Seems that blondes really are taking over the world. First we had the introduction of Blonde Ale, then Starbucks released its Blonde Roast, and now Valrhona has introduced the world’s first blonde chocolate. Say what?? Blonde chocolate?? You thought there were just dark, milk and white?

milk dark and white

Before we delve into the world of Blonde chocolate, I offer you a quick Chocolate 101 Primer:

cocao bean on treeroasted nibs

The process of making chocolate starts with the cocoa bean. The beans are fermented, dried, roasted and then shelled. These shelled beans, known as cocoa nibs, are ground and the resulting product is a thick liquid known as chocolate liquor. (It’s not actually alcohol.) Then, this chocolate liquor is pressed and from this pressing we get two products:

1. Cocoa butter, which is actually the fat from the chocolate liquor

2. Chocolate solids, which when ground results in cocoa powder.

Unsweetened chocolate is basically cocoa butter reblended with cocoa powder. Sugar is added to make semi-sweet and bittersweet dark chocolate, and milk is added to produce milk chocolate. White chocolate contains none of the chocolate liquor. It contains cocoa butter, milk, sugar and sometimes vanilla.

Yes, you chocolate purists out there, I know that technically white chocolate is not really considered chocolate since it does not contain any pulp from the cocoa solids extracted from the cocoa bean.

To be labeled white chocolate, there must be a minimum of 20% cocoa butter, 15% milk powder and a maximum of 55% sugar. Note that real white chocolate is not pure white in colour, it is actually an ivory colour. If you see snow white chocolate, it is likely that it contains vegetable oil, rather than cocoa butter and trust me, the taste difference is significant!

OK, now onto the discovery that rocked my world, Blonde Chocolate! (Just a little aside here, when I announced this startling discovery to my husband and two sons they all started snoring! Ungrateful sods, no blonde chocolate treats for them!)

As with several other culinary innovations, this one was also an act of pure serendipity! About 8 years ago, Frédéric Bau, Executive Chef and director of Valrhona’s Ecole du Chocolat, was doing a demonstration for pastry chefs from around the globe. He had some white chocolate melting in a bain-marie. He used a small amount of that white chocolate for his demonstration and the remainder was left sitting there, continuing to slowly heat, completely forgotten about.

Around 10 hours later, he returned to discover that the white chocolate had caramelized into a stunning buckwheat honey blonde colour.  It had the aroma of toasted shortbread, and when he stuck his finger in there for a taste, he was shocked to discover an intense biscuity, caramel flavour.  It was smooth, buttery and there was a hint of salt on the finish.  Frédéric was convinced that he was clearly onto something big here. It took almost 8 years to be able to reproduce this happy accident on a large scale and sell it commercially.

But in October of 2012 Dulcey 32%, the world’s first blonde chocolate was born. Clearly I must have been living under a rock, as I had no idea about this launch. I only became aware of it last week when I got an email from The Vanilla Food Company, featuring some new products to their lineup. My mind was spinning with the possibilities and I immediately ordered a 2 kilogram bag.

dulcey 32-1

Since Passover is coming up soon (March 25), I decided to make some macarons and fill them with a Blonde Chocolate ganache. I think Frédéric would approve. These are classic French macarons, with only one “o”, not to be confused with American macaroons, (with two “oo”‘s), which are made with coconut.

on marble slab 2

Macaons are the perfect Passover dessert, since they contain no flour. There is a plethora of information and recipes out there in the Blogosphere. I have tried numerous recipes and techniques. Last year I discovered Stella Parks’ (aka Bravetart) macaron primer. I had always thought that macarons were the prima donnas of the pastry world, very temperamental and required a delicate touch. Not so says Stella. If you are a macaron geek like me, then these posts by Stella are required reading:

1. The 10 Commandments of Macaron Baking

2. Macaron Mythbusters

To make your life easy, print out this template for piping your macarons. Depending on the size of your baking sheets, you could print two and tape them together. Place template on baking sheet, cover with parchment and set aside.

template

A kitchen scale and stand mixer are recommended for success with macarons. Classic macarons begin with almond flour, sometimes called almond meal. You can buy ground almonds at most grocery store or bulk food stores. The ground almonds are combined with powdered sugar and then pressed through a sieve.

scalesieve

Egg whites, sugar and salt are whipped to stiff peaks. Stella gives quite explicit instructions, including number of minutes and speeds, which I have detailed in my attached recipe.after 3 minutesafter 6 minutes

after 9 minutesadding vanilla

The meringue is whipped enough when there is a big clump of meringue in the center of your whisk, like this:

meringue clumped 2

Next the ground almond/powdered sugar mixture is dumped on top of the meringue and a rubber spatula is used to combine everything. A combination of a folding stroke and a pressing motion, against the sides of the bowl to help deflate the meringue, are used. Remember, we are making macarons here, not meringues. You want to knock the air out of the egg whites.

The batter, also known as the macaronage, is sufficiently mixed and perfect for piping when you spoon some batter on top of the bowl and it mounds up on itself, but after about 20 seconds, it melts back down on itself. Your macaronage is under-mixed and too stiff if you spoon some out and drop it back into the mix and it just sits there, never incorporating. Your macaronage is over-mixed if it has the consistency of pancake batter. Do not let it get to this stage!

Filling the piping bag is easy if you place it inside a tall glass or pitcher, and cuff the top down. Only fill the bag half full. Otherwise, it will ooze out from the top and you will have a sticky mess, and probably curse me!

too thick 2spooning into piping bag 2

Pipe just inside the circles, as the mixture will spread.

piping 2

Remember to remove template before baking. Top half the macarons with a few Skor bits. These will be the top half of your macaron sandwich cookies.

remove templatetopping with Skor bits

While macarons are baking and cooling, prepare ganache filling. Bring cream and butter to a boil. Pour over chopped blonde chocolate. (You could also use white, milk or dark chocolate) Let sit for 3 minutes then whisk until smooth.

pouring creamwhisking

Let cool to room temperature, until quite thick and then pipe onto half the macarons. Top with Skor lids.

piping blond ganache

Macarons will keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to a month. Let come to room temperature before serving.

in egg holder

Click here to print recipe for Almond Macarons with Blonde Chocolate Ganache Filling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrity Crushes and Incredibly Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies

If we are to be completely honest with ourselves, we all have one! I’m referring to celebrity crushes here. You know what I’m talking about; someone in the public eye that you would actually have no chance with, but can’t help but like/be attracted to/daydream about. Celebrity crushes are a harmless way to perk up an otherwise drab day.

So here’s what I’m thinking. If somehow my darling husband meets his maker and dies an early death, and George Clooney were not available, I would likely hook up with Nick Malgieri. WHO???

Nick is an acclaimed pastry chef, teacher and author, with over 10 cookbooks to his name. I first began crushing on him in 2000 when I discovered his book, “Cookies Unlimited.” Here was a man who spoke my language and completely understood me. I think there is no better way to end a meal than a cookie. Nick shares my philosophy and offered me over 400 cookies to choose from. He really sealed the deal when I made his oatmeal lace cookies. Two gossamer thin oatmeal cookies sandwiched together with chocolate ganache.

Before Nick, there was Rance Mulliniks. And unless you are a major league baseball fan from the last century, you may once again say, “WHO??” Check him out in Wikipedia.”Rance played third base for the Toronto Blue Jays during their heyday period. He batted over .300 three times (1984, 1987 and 1989) and demonstrated great patience at the plate, regularly posting on-base percentages near .400. In 1984 he was named to Sports Illustrated’s Dream Team as a utility infielder.”

My husband is not threatened by either Nick or Rance. If you were to Google them you would instantly see why. Neither is genetically blessed with movie star looks, but physical pulchritude is besides the point here. Nick and I would spend our sunset years eating cookies and he would not care one bit how fat I became. Rance and I would watch reruns of the 1992 and 1993 World Series games over and over again. I never grow tired of hearing Jerry Howarth and Tom Cheek announcing, “Now batting for the Blue Jays, Number 5, Raaaance Mulliniks.”

As I was thinking about writing this column, it occurred to me that I had never asked my husband who his celebrity crush was. I suppose I should be flattered that it took him a full 8 hours to come up with an answer, and a further 7 hours to recall her name. (It was actress Mila Kunis, in case you are curious.) Upon further reflection, I wondered if his inability to instantly come up with a celebrity name meant he just lacked imagination. Not so, it’s just that he is very firmly rooted in practicality. So practical in fact, that he has decided that should I go first, he will take up with one of my good friends, since she already knows her way around the cottage kitchen! You have to admire his pragmatic nature.

Celebrity crushes are really quite innocuous, unless of course you start to take it too far and begin imagining that your crush would adore you if he met you, or start wondering if there is enough closet space for all your clothes at his place, once he tells his wife he’s leaving her for you. You know you have moved into danger territory if you start visualizing how your dishes will look in his kitchen and wondering if he would find you too forward if you insisted he paint his kitchen Benjamin Moore 360 (San Fernando Sunshine) as the current paint colour he has offends your strong sense of aesthetic. If this happens, you need to seek help, or a restraining order may be in your future.

My sister has fallen into the stalker territory with her crush on P.E.I Food Network Chef Michael Smith. It all seemed harmless enough at the beginning but once she found out he was separating from wife Rachel, visions of co-parenting their son Gabe, filled her head. Gabe is an amazing little guy, who eats everything his chef dad makes for him! Her hopes were quickly dashed when she discovered he was having a second child with a new love, Chastity Fizzard. Folks, I am not making this stuff up!

My sister has recovered, but Chef Michael’s star has somewhat tarnished in her eyes. That being said, she is correct in bragging about his Triple Chocolate Brownies. I have tried many different brownie recipes in my years of baking, but these come close to perfection. Deeply chocolate, chewy, fudgy and very rich and decadent. They could be just the thing to help you get over your celebrity crush.

Melt butter and 8 ounces of the very best quality bittersweet chocolate you can find. Do not use chocolate chips here. Chocolate chips contain an emulsifier in them to help them hold their shape during baking. Buy good quality chocolate (at least 60-70% cocoa content). I like Callebaut 70 %. Lindt bars  (70%) will also work quite well. I melt the butter and chocolate in a large stainless steel bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder so that there are no lumps.

Eggs, brown sugar and vanilla are added. The chocolate in these brownies is ramped up  even further by the addition of chocolate chips. You can use regular chocolate chips for this part of the recipe, but you will have even more stellar results if you just chop up some of the good stuff! (70% bittersweet chocolate)

Batter is mixed and poured into a parchment lined 9 x 13 Pyrex pan. You can grease and flour the pan, but parchment makes cleanup so easy and it makes cutting the brownies into squares a snap.

My sister likes to cut them into perfect Isosceles triangles. My fine motor skills are not quite as finely honed, but any shape will be devoured. They are quite moist and fudgy and the addition of chocolate chips to the batter makes for a nice surprise.

Click here to print recipe for Michael Smith’s Triple Chocolate Brownies.

Ambivalent Birthday Cupcakes

You always remember your first. No, I’m not talking about THAT first. This is a not that kind of blog!

I have the good fortune of being blessed with 14 nephews and 9 nieces. I have a special place in my heart for each and every one of them, but there is something quite special about becoming an aunt for the first time. My oldest nephew was an adorable, sweet-natured baby and has turned into a wonderful, responsible, very funny young man with a strong sense of family. His 29th birthday coincided with a visit to our cottage last week. I wanted to make a family dinner for him. I know he has been following the Paleo diet for some time now, and birthday cake is not really on the approved Paleo list. However, a birthday without cake is just too sad for me to contemplate, so last week I sent him the following e-mail:

Would you eat cake on your birthday? If so, what would your preference be? Chocolate, Berry Shortcake, Carrot, or anything else.

I got the following response:

Well, I would have some cake if there was one in front of me, but I’d rather not.  I know I’d enjoy it in the moment, but I’d probably regret the sugar and gluten the next day.  But if I had to choose?  Chocolate or Berry Shortcake sounds great.

As far as what I eat…pretty much meat and veg these days – still on the Paleo diet.  I basically stay away from gluten/grains, dairy, and most processed food.  That being said, however, given your penchant for baking (I don’t remember the last time I was at your cottage and didn’t see something delicious cooling down on those huge racks you’ve got) I’d imagine I’ll be doing a bit of cheating those few days.
Anything I can bring?
WHAT???? Talk about an ambivalent response! How was I to interpret that?
This party was beginning to look like no fun at all. I fired off a quick e-mail:
Do you still drink alcohol?
He responded:
Yes, just wine and tequilla. 
Whew, he hadn’t completely lost his mind.
Now I had to decide if I would be the Evil Aunt and tempt him with something anti-Paleo, or should I be considerate and respectful of his diet and make him a Paleo Chocolate Birthday Cake with Coconut Honey Frosting?
I decided that to go with a full-on, loaded with gluten, dairy and sugar cake would be cruel, but it really seemed to me that he was asking me to help him cheat. So. I decided to make cupcakes, because they’re small and not really a true cake. Sort of an ambivalent cake for his ambivalent response.
For the base of the cupcakes, I knew chocolate was the right road to follow. I have tried many different chocolate cake recipes over the years, and have come to the conclusion that butter is not always better when it comes to the moistest cake. Vegetable oil really does make a better cake. Our family’s go-to chocolate cake comes from Noreen Gilletz’s “Pleasures of Your Food Processor.”  Rich, moist and very deeply chocolate, but not too sweet, it makes a perfect cake or cupcakes every time.

I am thrilled with the Cocoa Barry brand of cocoa powderI just bought. (Cocoa Barry is the French division of Callebaut)

I wanted to try a different buttercream this time. A few years ago I had dinner at a wonderful restaurant in Ottawa called Beckta. Before the meal they brought bread and some type of butter spread to the table. I was smitten from the first bite! I begged the waiter for the recipe for this spread. He told me that they melt butter until it turns a medium nutty brown colour. Then they chill it ao that it becomes a solid again and whip it with a little regular butter. This was my first foray into the land of browned butter (the French call it beurre noisette) and I must say that it has haunted my dreams ever since.
Given my success with browned butter berry tarts, I suspected that browned butter in a buttercream would be fantastic. Something magical happens when you brown butter. It enhances the flavour of just about anything you add it to, and the aroma will drive you wild. Making brown butter is quite simple. Use a saucepan with a light coloured bottom, so that you will be able to judge when the butter is browned to perfection. A dark bottom pan can lead to burned butter and trust me, that aroma and taste will not leave you craving more!

As the butter melts, it will begin to foam. Swirl the pan to ensure even melting. The color will progress from pale yellow to golden-tan to, finally, a burnt sienna (remember that crayola crayon colour?). Once you smell that nutty aroma, take the pan off the heat and transfer the browned butter into a heat-proof bowl to cool.

The milk solids will cook faster and you’ll see them settle on the bottom of the pan. You can strain the brown butter through cheesecloth to leave those milk solid particles behind, or you can incorporate them into the buttercream. I really like the almost burnt taste of them as well as seeing the specks of browned butter in the icing, so I did not strain mine.

The brown butter is chilled for about an hour until it becomes solid again. The ideal temperature of the brown butter for making the buttercream is room temperature. If it becomes too hard in the fridge, leave it on the counter to soften a bit. Beat the brown butter with icing sugar, a pinch of salt and a little vanilla extract.

Fit a disposable piping bag with a large star tip and frost the cupcakes.

The cupcakes were a huge hit. My nephew inhaled two of them and asked for two more to be wrapped up to go. I have a feeling he may have had a bit of a gluten-sugar hangover the next morning, but I think he will agree that they were worth it.

Click here to print the recipe for Chocolate Cupcakes with Browned Butter Icing.

P.S. Just read about browned butter on field fresh tomatoes. Check it out!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts and a very sweet Mother’s Day.

Today I am grateful for several small and large blessings! I am grateful to be relatively pain free. If you read my last post,  you, may recall that I was in bed for over 8 days with terrible back and leg pain. The MRI revealed a bulging disc which was pressing on a nerve and causing me back pain. It seems to have eased greatly and I am back on my feet again. I feel grateful for a wonderful husband who brought me an extra hot skim milk latte in bed this morning.

Although I couldn’t be in Toronto today to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom, I am grateful to have 5 siblings all living there to celebrate with her. They gathered at my baby sister’s house and had a “friendly” game of softball. Some family members tend to get a bit competitive about these things so hopefully no one sprained a hamstring sliding into first base or got bonked on the head from being tagged out at home plate. I’m sure to get a play by play analysis very soon.

Finally, I am grateful for my sweet children. My oldest was unable to spend today with me, but he drove for over 5 hours to come home for a short visit yesterday. My middle child bought me a beautiful blue hydrangea plant and gave me a very fitting (and funny) card .

And my youngest, with the help of his sister, made me a video on YouTube, serenading me with Elvis’ “Love me Tender.” So sweet!

I made these tarts a few days ago and thought we would have them today for dessert. Unfortunately they were all gone the day I made them. Luckily I have other sweet things to satisfy me!

These tarts are the creation of Lucy Waverman, food columnist for the Globe and Mail. I have adapted the recipe somewhat.  The original recipe produced tarts that had a thin layer of caramel and then a thick layer of ganache. I doubled the caramel recipe so that the finished tarts would have a thick layer of both caramel and chocolate.I also added some salt to the caramel filling as well as a few decorative flakes on top of the ganache filling.

I made them in mini muffin tins. Not only do they look adorable, but there is no guilt at all involved in popping one (or three) of these into your mouth. The contrast in textures of this mini bite are what make it so special. Biting into the crisp flaky pastry you discover a silky smooth layer of bittersweet slightly salty caramel covered in a thick layer of chilled chocolate ganache. The ping on your tongue from a melting crystal of fleur de sel helps these tarts from being too cloyingly sweet.

Begin with making the caramel, as it needs time to cool and firm up. Sugar, water and corn syrup are boiled until a rich amber colour is reached. Finish with whipping cream and a pinch of kosher salt.

I like to roll out the pastry dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper, right after making the dough. Then I chill the rolled out dough. Be sure to roll the dough very thin (1/8 of an inch thick) for these mini tarts.

Let the tart shells cool completely before filling. I find it easiest to put the caramel filling into a disposable piping bag.

Finish off with chocolate ganache and a few flakes of fleur de sel.

Click here to print recipe for Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts.