Tag: Chocolate

Baking Chronicle No. 23: Chocolate Meringues!

Baking Chronicle No. 23: Chocolate Meringues!

This recipe comes courtesy of the King Arthur Flour website (if you want to make this recipe, click here) and my desperate need to make something that used four egg whites! My basic thought process was that making meringues was an easy way to dispose of the egg whites before they went bad, and then I’d make chocolate meringues because, well, everything’s better with chocolate!

(Logic?)

First, I whipped my egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until they reached soft peaks. Then I dumped in my sugar (I figured that the instruction to add it gradually was really more of a suggestion) and whipped the meringues until stiff peaks formed.

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My meringue formed stiff peaks after approximately 7-8 minutes of whipping.

(A note on baking vocabulary (for those of you who don’t know): “soft peaks” means that you whip the egg whites until they contain just enough air to hold their shape when you pull the mixing attachment out. “Stiff peaks” means that when the mixing attachment is pulled out, the egg whites defy gravity (yay science!) and stick to the mixing attachment in a stiff peak, as pictured above.)

Next came the trickiest part: I had to fold cocoa powder into the meringues. The reason why you have to “fold” ingredients into a meringue is because the meringue is full of air (the air that you just whipped into it) and if you mix vigorously, it will deflate. Deflated meringue is not good, because a deflated meringue won’t develop the same melt-in-the-mouth texture that a normal (inflated?) meringue has after baking.

So folding is a pretty high-pressure experience. It also takes forever (I think it took me five to ten minutes to incorporate the cocoa powder). Finally, though, I was done mixing the batter!

Meringues are often piped, so I asked my sister to make me a piping bag (mainly because the last time I made a piping bag, I accidentally sprayed creme patisserie onto the carpet). I messily piped the meringues, popped them into the oven to bake, and then turned the oven off.

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I can honestly say that this is probably one of my best piping jobs…My worst was probably when I squirted pastry cream all over the carpet!

Yes, off. Meringues generally need a long bake – in fact, most people will stick them in the oven, turn the oven off, and then let them sit there overnight. My patience didn’t last that long, however; I took the meringues out of the oven two hours later and popped one into my mouth.

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My baked meringues!

The texture was amazing – in my opinion, it’s the real reason why people make meringues. It’s a beautiful crunch as you bite into it, and then the insides dissolve into sweet, chocolate bliss inside your mouth. Even when frozen, meringues still melt on your tongue.

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The inside of a meringue!

So I’d call this adventure a success! I will definitely end up making meringues in the future (because I really don’t know how else to use those leftover egg whites)!

Adventures in Baking No. 22: Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches!

Adventures in Baking No. 22: Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches!

In my house, there is one dessert so revered that it is the standard by which all other baked goods are measured. It is a level of deliciousness that I constantly strive towards.

What’s the standard? A slice of bakery Birthday Cake.

And yesterday, I baked something that my family rated as the standard’s equal. So thank you, Tessa Arias, for another delicious ice cream sandwich recipe!

I decided to bake Cookies and Cream‘s vanilla ice cream recipe and the chocolate chip cookie recipe, because I wanted to recreate those awesome ice cream sandwiches from a nearby grocery store.

First, I made the vanilla ice cream. The recipe called for a vanilla bean, but since I didn’t have any vanilla beans, I used vanilla bean paste (which made the ice cream look amazing because it gave it a flecked appearance). I mixed together my milk, cream, 1/2 cup of sugar, and vanilla bean paste, then I heated the mixture while I combined my egg yolks and the rest of the sugar. Next, I ladled the hot milk into the eggs while whisking constantly, and then I dumped the eggs into the hot pan with the rest of the milk to finish making the custard. After the temperature reached 175 degrees Fahrenheit, I took the custard off of the heat and strained it into a pre-made ice bath. Finally, I refrigerated the cooled base after it had spent 15 minutes in the ice bath.

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My custard as it cooled in an ice-water bath (which really turned out to be more of a cool-water bath, if I’m honest). Look at all the flecks and the beautiful color! I credit the vanilla bean paste.

Two hours later, I churned my custard in my ice cream maker. Straight out of the bowl, I tried a spoonful, and the ice cream was delicious. I couldn’t savor it, however, because it needed to freeze before I made the sandwiches, so into the freezer it went!

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My churned ice cream!

(I know I say that things are delicious a lot, and that’s because I love dessert, but this vanilla ice cream was truly magnificent. I dislike vanilla ice cream in general (because, honestly, it could have been chocolate ice cream), but I loved this. The vanilla flavor was strong and really came through – definitely better than bland store-bought vanilla ice cream. If you haven’t ever made home-made vanilla ice cream, try it! It’s totally worth the stress of making custard.)

Next, I made the chocolate chip cookies. The recipe was straight-forward and what I expected, except for one little twist: Arias calls for 1 tablespoon of milk. I’ve never made a chocolate chip cookie recipe with milk, so I was excited to see what would happen. (Generally, my chocolate chip cookies use vinegar (thanks, King Arthur Flour!).)

After I finished the dough, I made 18 (ginormous) cookies and pressed them flat with my fingers.

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My cookies right before I popped them into the oven. The uneven ridges are because I stopped pressing them flat with my palm and instead used my fingers. Whoops!

Then I baked the cookies for 10 minutes or so before taking them out of the oven and transferring them to a cooling rack. Once they had cooled, I froze the cookies for an hour so that they would be solid when I assembled the sandwiches.

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My baked cookies – they were huge!

50 minutes later (I was impatient), I laid out my cookies and dolloped ice cream onto each pair to make 9 ice cream sandwiches. Then I wrapped each sandwich in plastic wrap and froze them for another 90 minutes before trying them.

The sandwiches were fabulous. There’s no other word, really. The vanilla ice cream really shone through, and the cookies added a nice bit of buttery crunch. I will definitely make this recipe again, but with one revision: chocolate chips on the edges of the ice cream!

 

Baking Chronicle No. 21: Chocolate Chip Shortbread!

Baking Chronicle No. 21: Chocolate Chip Shortbread!

Why snack on popcorn when you can bake yourself cookies? Neither Sophronia nor I could think of a good answer to that question, and so we decided to bake chocolate chip shortbread to eat during our Kim Possible Marathon!

Our (fantastic, life-changing) shortbread came courtesy of the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, also known as my family’s go-to cookie-and-brownie cookbook. The recipe was simple, and there were only 6 ingredients: butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, flour, and chocolate chips! Basically, you creamed together the butter and sugar, then dumped in all of the other ingredients, and voila! Shortbread dough!

For the first batch (that we made for our first marathon), we used the full amount of flour and pressed the cookies into 9-inch cake pans, as instructed. However, for our second batch, we omitted 1/4 cup of flour (the first batch was a little dry) and pressed the dough onto a greased cookie sheet in a haphazard pattern (I really didn’t feel like making a neat square). Then we just baked the cookies for a little over half an hour, and they were done! Instant snack!

The cookies were amazing. I mean, I have hated shortbread for my entire life, mainly because I’ve only ever had store-bought shortbread, but this shortbread….It was crunchy yet melt-in-the-mouth, flecked with chocolate, and beautifully buttery. In short, I loved it! I will definitely make this recipe again!

(P. S. There’s a reason there aren’t that many pictures for this bake – the shortbread disappeared that fast!)

Baking Chronicle No. 19: Orange and White Chocolate Golden Bread Buns!

Baking Chronicle No. 19: Orange and White Chocolate Golden Bread Buns!

First, that’s way too long of a name for a dressed-up bread roll. I’ll come up with something better if I make it again.

Second, I made these yesterday because…I felt like it! The best reason to bake anything!

Basically, I remembered that people had paired orange and white chocolate together on The Great British Baking Show (specifically, I recalled Ruby’s peacock from Bread Week in Series 2), and I decided that I’d make an orange and white chocolate bread! Then, because I wanted to make smaller portions, I made rolls!

To begin, I made the Rich Golden Bread recipe from How to Bake Everything (with the added orange flavor guesstimated by yours truly) – I combined my flour, yeast, salt, sugar, eggs, orange zest, orange extract, cold butter, and warm milk to make a cohesive dough. Then I kneaded it for about 2 or 3 minutes, until it came together, and let it prove for 3 hours (two of which my dough spent in the refrigerator).

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My dough before the first prove

Next, I divided the dough into twelve roughly equal balls and let rise for another twenty minutes. In the twenty-minute gap, I melted my white chocolate and refrigerated it until it was cold but still in liquid form.

To finish shaping, I rolled my balls out into circles, dolloped some white chocolate in the middle, and folded the edges to the center and pinched the seam to form a roll!

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My shaped rolls

Finally, my bread moved onto its second prove (I let it rise for about 75 minutes, until it held my fingerprint when I poked it) and then I baked it after brushing each roll with an egg-white wash!

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My rolls just before I popped them in the oven!

(I used egg whites because I had leftover egg whites in my refrigerator and I really didn’t feel like making meringues.)

I baked them for approximately 25 minutes, until the crust was golden brown and the internal temperature of the rolls reached 210 degrees Fahrenheit (as specified by the recipe).

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The baked rolls

Then I free-styled an orange glaze using orange extract, milk, powdered sugar, and meringue powder; I spread it onto my rolls after they’d cooled for approximately 10 minutes.

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My orange glaze! Which, miraculously, dried into a hard-crack glaze – thanks, meringue powder!

At long last, I could try a roll! I tore one open and saw a beautiful crumb with flecks of orange and a large space where the white chocolate had melted into the bread. I didn’t mind, though – the white chocolate taste was still apparent, and so was the orange! The two flavors were subtle and mild, but delicious, and I definitely enjoyed eating my rolls!

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I tore open a roll and felt extremely pleased with the bake!
Baking Chronicle No. 17: Molten Chocolate Cake

Baking Chronicle No. 17: Molten Chocolate Cake

On Sunday I had my friend (whose alias shall henceforth be Sophronia Snicket, per her request) over to watch movies and, of course, bake! For dessert, we decided to make molten chocolate cake from How to Bake Everything, since neither of us had ever had molten chocolate cake before. Unfortunately, our adventure didn’t go swimmingly.

The cake recipe required surprisingly little flour – it consisted mainly of eggs, butter, and sugar. First, we melted our unsweetened chocolate with the butter in a saucepan and whipped the eggs and sugar by hand in a bowl. Since the recipe called for dark chocolate, I added some extra sugar to compensate for the bitterness of the unsweetened chocolate. Then we just poured the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and added our flour and salt.

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The finished batter

I tasted the batter to see if it was sweet enough – it tasted a little bitter, but like a good dark chocolate. It also tasted a bit dry, but I figured that would just…bake off?

In hindsight, I should have added an extra tablespoon or two of butter.

Next, we poured the cakes into the ramekins and added a dash of mint extract to two out of four cakes (just because we like mint). Then we realized that we’d forgotten to grease the ramekins…and decided we’d eat our cakes in the ramekins! Instant mug cake improvisation!

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The cakes before baking

After baking the cakes for 6 minutes, they looked a little too wet, so I let them bake for another two minutes, after which they looked risen and…well, cake-y! Once the ramekins had cooled, we tried some cake.

The cake was dry and slightly bitter. I think I probably over-baked it by thirty seconds or so (I blame my oven timer, whose smallest increment is 60 seconds) and the cake definitely needed more butter and more sugar. Our dessert, however, was saved by Sophronia’s whipped cream experiment (see the next post!), which added sweetness and moisture to our unfortunately dry mug cakes.

I may try this recipe again with dark chocolate (and greased ramekins!) to see if the results differ – maybe I’ll also add a filling! Next time, I’ll also be wary of substituting unsweetened chocolate for dark chocolate!

 

Adventures in Baking No. 16: Grasshopper Ice Cream Sandwiches!

Adventures in Baking No. 16: Grasshopper Ice Cream Sandwiches!

Recently I borrowed the cookbook Cookies and Cream by Tessa Arias from my local library. It’s an ice cream sandwich cookbook, and since all of the recipes looked amazing, I decided to try making one!

I chose to bake Arias’ Grasshopper Ice Cream Sandwich recipe because “grasshopper” desserts are composed of chocolate and mint, or in this case, mint ice cream and chocolate cookies. My thought process: “Who doesn’t like mint ice cream and chocolate cookies?”

Side note: why is a green insect synonymous with the chocolate-mint flavor combination? I have absolutely no idea, so if anyone knows the answer, please comment; in the meantime, I’ll research it and hopefully update you later.

First, I made the base, or the custard, for my mint ice cream. I heated my milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until they steamed; then I whisked half (probably more like one-third) of the milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture in order to temper the eggs. (Tempering the eggs warms them slowly so they don’t scramble.) Next, I just cooked the custard until it coated the back of the spoon and my thermometer registered the base’s temperature as 175 degrees Fahrenheit.

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My finished custard

I immediately strained my custard into my pre-made ice-water bath (I was so proud of myself for preparing that ahead of time, regardless of the fact that the instructions listed it as the first step). Then I stirred the vanilla, mint, and food coloring into the base while it cooled. Once the custard reached room temperature, I refrigerated it for six hours or so before churning the ice cream.

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My ice cream at the beginning of its 30-minute churning session

Finally, I added chopped-up Junior Mints into the ice cream in the last five minutes of churning in the place of chocolate chips!

While the base was refrigerating, I busied myself by baking the chocolate sugar cookies that were the “sandwich” portion of the ice cream sandwich. These cookies were easy drop cookies; I basically made the dough, rolled it into balls, rolled the balls in sugar, and then pressed each cookie ball down with a glass (to make the cookies flat). Afterwards, I just baked the cookies and, once they were cool, froze them so that they held up when sandwiched with ice cream.

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My baked chocolate sugar cookies – you can see the indent from the bottom of the glass that I used to flatten them. Whoops!

After both the cookies and the ice cream had enough time to freeze, I made nine ice cream sandwiches by scooping ice cream onto a cookie and…pressing down with the other cookie! A simple yet effective technique!

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Before we scooped the ice cream and made the sandwiches, we laid out the plastic wrap and the sugar cookies to minimize the amount of time the ice cream spent out of the freezer

My sister and I also added chocolate chips to the edges of most of the sandwiches; however, some of them began to melt a little too quickly for our comfort and so some sandwiches went into the freezer without their mini chocolate chips.

When we finally tasted our sandwiches, they were delicious! The cookies were soft and almost cake-like in texture, with a wonderful melt-in-the-mouth feel and a good chocolate flavor. The ice cream was tasty, creamy, and definitely minty.

Therein lies, sadly, my one issue with this recipe: it tasted just a little too minty. The recipe called for 1 teaspoon of pure peppermint (in my case, pure mint) extract, which I thought sounded like a large amount. I generally add only half a teaspoon to most baked goods because of various toothpaste-mint incidents (stories for another time that, suffice to say, have made me wary of adding large amounts of mint extract, lest my baked goods taste like toothpaste). Unfortunately, my instincts here were right – 1 teaspoon was definitely too much. The mint taste was just a touch too strong and had a hint of artificiality. This recipe was definitely tasty enough to make again, however, and so the next time I make it I think I’ll infuse the cream with fresh mint to avoid an artificial taste. I wholeheartedly recommend this cookbook and this recipe though – Tessa Arias has created some amazing flavor combinations!

 

Baking Chronicle No. 11: Cupcakes

Baking Chronicle No. 11: Cupcakes

For the Fourth of July, I decided to make festive cupcakes to share with friends!

First, a note. I am not a huge fan of cupcakes. When it comes to cake, I view the baked good as the blank canvas upon which I paint beautiful flavors using frosting. In short, frosting is everything.

Don’t get me wrong: I love a good cake, and I definitely like cupcakes. I just think that nearly all cake requires frosting of some sort, and it’s really irritating when there isn’t enough frosting for the given amount of cake. Sadly, a prime example of this problem is often the cupcake.

But never fear! I resolved to fix the problem by making a chocolate cake recipe from How to Bake Everything that shines on its own! (So if you happened to run out of frosting because you ate the entire top off the cupcake, the leftover cake was still fabulous!)

First, I made my chocolate cake recipe. Truth be told, I was originally going to make a yellow cake with a chocolate frosting. However, the yellow cake recipe required eight (eight!) egg yolks, and I really didn’t want to have to find a way to use eight (eight!) egg whites. So, I made chocolate cake because a) chocolate is always better and b) the recipe used 2 whole eggs. To frost the cupcakes, I decided to make a whipped white chocolate ganache.

Making the cake batter was easy. The only tricky part of the recipe was folding the whipped egg whites into the rest of the batter. This was slightly scary because folding is more of an art than a science; one must preserve the air in the egg whites or risk deflating the batter, and this is way harder than it sounds when you have to fully incorporate a delicate airy foam into a heavy chocolate mixture. However, I think I succeeded because the cupcakes rose and tasted amazing.

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My baked cupcakes

I also made white chocolate ganache to top the cupcakes. This went…okay. Okay is probably a stretch, though. I mean, I followed the directions to the letter – I heated the cream, dumped it on the chocolate, and stirred. A lot. There was much stirring. However, the ganache was really thin, so I added some more chocolate and reheated the whole mixture so that the chocolate would melt. Then I refrigerated the ganache in the hope that it would thicken.

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My runny ganache

Thankfully, it did thicken. Unfortunately, the ganache was still thin. However, I decided that I could just whip some air into the ganache to make it a frosting rather than a glaze (go problem-solving!). The regrettably unforeseen consequence of this was that the ganache became grainy (I still have no idea why) and melted a little when I frosted the cupcakes. (I will admit, though, that the frosting might have melted because I didn’t let the cupcakes cool for a long enough period of time.)

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The frosting started to melt before I was even done spreading it on the cupcakes

Alas, when all hope seems lost, a beacon of light can shine through the darkness, and in this case, I yanked the sprinkles out of my cupboard and set to work. When I finally sampled a finished cupcake, it was tasty. The cake was better than the frosting (which almost never happens), and while the ganache was a bit too sweet for my taste, I liked the finished product. I will definitely revise the recipe combination if I decide to make this again, though, so that I have actual frosting rather than runny whipped ganache!