Chocolate enthusiasts take note: Our cooking columnist describes Alice Medrich's cookbook, Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker’s Guide to Chocolate, as "the perfect love letter to this dark, dense, divinely delicious delicacy." This recipe for Bittersweet Decadence Cookies yields soft, ultra-rich cookies and can be modified to use up to 72% chocolate.
Bittersweet Decadence Cookies
Makes 36 cookies
Ultra-chocolatey and richer than sin, slightly crunchy on the outside with a divinely soft center, these are not delicate or subtle, but the jolt of bittersweet is irresistible. I reorganized and revised the original recipe from one in a newspaper—to make the cookies more chocolatey and intense—by reducing the sugar and butter. Now I’ve revised it again so that I can make it with higher-percentage chocolates without compromising that perfect contrast of textures. For the best cookies of all, chop your own chocolate for the chunks, or use a premium brand of chocolate chunks rather than ordinary chocolate chips. You can choose a chocolate for the chunks that contrasts in sweetness with the chocolate in the cookie batter.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets (see Note) with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together thoroughly; set aside.
Place the 8 ounces (225 grams) of chocolate and the butter in a large stainless steel bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir frequently just until melted and smooth. Remove the chocolate from the skillet and set it aside. Leave the heat on under the skillet.
In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together thoroughly. Set the bowl in the skillet and stir until the mixture is lukewarm to the touch. Stir the egg mixture into the warm (not hot) chocolate. Stir in the flour mixture, then the nuts and chocolate chunks.
Drop slightly rounded tablespoons of batter 1½ inches apart onto the lined cookie sheets. Bake until the surface of the cookies looks dry and set but the center is still gooey, 12 to 14 minutes. Slide the cookies, still on the parchment, onto racks, or set the pans on the racks. Let cool completely. Store in a tightly sealed container.
Note: I am fussy about cookie sheets. These cookies will have the best flavor and texture if they are baked on sheets lined with parchment paper, which insulates them just enough but still allows the cookies to be a little crusty on the outside and soft within. Cushioned pans and silicone liners make the texture of the cookies too uniform for my taste. Pans with dark surfaces (even if they are nonstick) tend to scorch rich chocolate cookie bottoms before the centers are cooked.
To use higher-percentage chocolate to make cookies that are increasingly bittersweet, without sacrificing the texture or the pretty gloss on the surface of the cookies, adjust the recipe as follows.
To use 61% to 64% chocolate:
Use 7 ounces (200 grams) chocolate. Increase the sugar to ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (110 grams).
To use 66% chocolate:
Use 6½ ounces (185 grams) chocolate. Increase the butter to 3 tablespoons (45 grams) and the sugar to ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams).
To use 70% to 72% chocolate:
Use 5½ ounces (155 grams) chocolate. Increase the butter to 3 tablespoons (45 grams) and the sugar to ¾ cup (150 grams).
For the chunks, use any chocolate you like, the same as or different from the batter. No alterations are necessary.
In the spirit of Valentine's Day, we're sharing a recipe for a beautiful, rich and chocolately dessert that is so good, you won't even mind that it's not heart-shaped. This Warm Mocha Tart comes from Alice Medrich's swoon-worthy cookbook, Seriously Bitter Sweet: The Ultimate Dessert Maker's Guide to Chocolate, which has more than 150 decadent recipes. Who needs flowers?
Warm Mocha Tart
Serves 8 to 10
Two weeks of nonstop shortbread testing produced an unorthodox surprise: perfect shortbread made with melted butter. That shortbread became an exquisitely crunchy and flavorful base for lemon bars, a crust for cheesecake and, ultimately, my favorite sweet tart crust. I even bake brownie batter on top of it. This remarkable crust barely shrinks in the pan, so there is no need to weight or even prick it before baking. To ensure that the bottom remains crunchy, bake the crust fully, to a deep golden brown, before pouring in the filling.
At the same time I was playing with the new tart crust, I was experimenting with different cocoas, tasting and comparing natural and Dutch-process in all kinds of recipes. Voilà, rich warm cocoa custard in the simplest crust.
9½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom
For the Crust
For the Filling
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. To make the tart crust: Mix the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the flour and mix just until well blended. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft. Press all of the dough very thinly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown.
4. Meanwhile, make the filling: Place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and cream in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is blended and smooth and begins to simmer around the edges. Remove from the heat and stir in the espresso powder and vanilla.
5. Just before the crust is ready, whisk the egg thoroughly into the hot chocolate mixture.
6. Pour the filling into the hot crust and turn off the oven. Leave the tart in the oven until it quivers like tender Jell-O in the center when the pan is nudged, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a rack.
7. Serve the tart warm or at room temperature.
Espresso Walnut Tart: The same tart in a walnut cookie crust produces a subtler but still delicious effect. You could also make it with toasted skinned hazelnuts—then I would omit the espresso powder.
Reduce the butter to 6 tablespoons (85 grams) and add 2 teaspoons brandy and 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or a heaping teaspoon instant coffee powder or crystals) with the sugar, salt, and vanilla. In a food processor, pulverize ⅓ cup (35 grams) walnut pieces with ¾ cup (105 grams) flour until fine. Substitute this mixture for the flour. Proceed as directed.
Either natural or Dutch-process cocoa works well here. The former has a livelier, more complex, fruity flavor, while the latter has a cozy old-fashioned flavor reminiscent of chocolate pudding. You choose.
This delicious dessert, from one of our top March cookbooks, needs little introduction—if the title doesn't get you, the photo certainly will.
This is what I call company dessert—you know, one of those recipes you are always looking for that is guaranteed to get plenty of oohs and aahs when guests see it and even more compliments when they taste it. It is a heavenly, light dessert with a wonderful pomegranate sauce, divine with a really good cup of coffee.
Now, let’s talk presentation. You want to time bringing out the cake. Wait until all the dishes have been cleared away and you have a nice stack of plates ready for the cake on the table. Make a big entrance, carrying the cake from the kitchen to the dining room. Cut one slice and then drizzle a little extra sauce on the serving, and ask the person next to you to pass it along. The wonderful aroma of the ginger in the cake will fill the air as it is passed to the person at the end of the table. It’s a great way to build the anticipation of that first bite of such a delicious cake!
To save time, you can use store-bought meringues—it doesn’t matter if they are powdery and dry. You’ll need about 10 meringues that are approximately 3 1 ?2 inches in diameter.
For the meringues
For the cake
2 tablespoons strong instant coffee granules, such as espresso
1 tablespoon boiling water
3 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur, such as Tia Maria or Kahlua
3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 cup salted pecans, finely chopped
For the pomegranate sauce
¼ cup seedless raspberry preserves
1 cup pomegranate juice (store-bought or fresh)
Juice of 1 lime
1 heaping tablespoon arrowroot powder, mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
Seeds of 2 pomegranates
To make the meringues, preheat the oven to 225°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and rub the paper with a trace of sunflower oil, or line the sheet with a silicone baking mat. Set the baking sheet aside.
Whisk the egg whites until they are very stiff and dry. Then slowly add the granulated sugar bit by bit, whisking until the egg whites regain their former stiffness. Fold in the superfine sugar with a large metal spoon. Spoon the mixture onto the lined baking sheet, and bake until crisp, about 3 hours. Remove, and break the meringues into pieces.
Mix the instant coffee with the boiling water, and then refrigerate until well chilled.
Whip the cream to the soft-peak stage, and mix in the sugar, coffee liqueur, and the chilled coffee. Fold in the broken meringues, the crystallized ginger, and the corn syrup. Line the bottom and sides of a loaf pan with parchment paper. Evenly distribute the chopped pecans on the bottom.
Spoon the whipped cream mixture on top of the pecans. Cover with foil and freeze for at least 24 hours.
To make the sauce, combine the raspberry preserves and the pomegranate juice in a small pan over low heat, and cook until the preserves have melted. Add the lime juice and bring to a boil. Then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the arrowroot mixture. Put the pan back on the heat and simmer gently, whisking, for a couple of minutes. Then let the sauce cool. When it has cooled completely, add the pomegranate seeds.
To remove the frozen cake from the pan, allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes, then invert the cake onto a serving platter.
Slice into ¾-inch slices, drizzle with the pomegranate sauce, and serve.
Reprinted from the book P. Allen Smith’s Seasonal Recipes from the Garden by P. Allen Smith. Copyright © 2010 by P. Allen Smith. Photographs copyright © 2010 by Ben Fink. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.
Here's another delicious cookie recipe in honor of this week's contest, from Very Merry Cookie Party—a unique book that gives tips and tricks for staging a successful cookie exchange party along with classic recipes. These beautiful cookies are especially fun to make with children.
Use fruit-flavored Life Savers, sour balls, or similar hard candies for the “stained glass.” It is fun to make your own design for the ornaments. For example, if you want to make a holly leaf or a dove, draw the shape on a piece of cardboard—about 3 inches in diameter is a good size—and cut it out. Edge the gingerbread strips around the design on the cookie sheet. Continue until all the gingerbread has been used.
To crush the candies, use a food processor or place the candies between 2 pieces of waxed paper and crush with a rolling pin.
Cookie Exchange Tip
To make this cookie into a tree ornament, attach a loop made from the dough to the top of eth cookie before baking. After the cookie is baked, thread a piece of ribbon through the loop and tie the ribbon in a bow. To make these ornaments at a party, prepare the cardboard patterns in advance.
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugar and molasses and beat for 2 minutes. Beat in the water. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture until a soft dough forms.
3. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil.
5. Divide the dough into thirds. Divide each third into 10 equal pieces. Using your palms, roll each piece on a lightly floured work surface into a rope 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter. Gently trace the design of your choice onto the prepared cookie sheets (a wooden spoon handle or chopstick works well for tracing on foil). Outline each design with a rope of dough, pressing the ends together to seal securely.
6. Sprinkle the inside of each design with the crushed candies, dividing the candies evenly among the outlined designs and creating an even layer.
7. Bake in the center of the oven or until the edges of the cookies are golden and the candy has melted, 6 to 9 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheets on wire racks until the candy hardens, about 5 minutes. Gently peel the foil away from the cookies and transfer to the racks to cool completely.
Recipe reprinted from Very Merry Cookie Party (Chronicle), copyright 2010, with permission from the publisher. All rights reserved. Read our review of the book.
Here’s another delicious cookie recipe in honor of this week’s contest, from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy (isn't that the greatest title for a cookie cookbook?) by Alice Medrich. These thin, chocolate-y, crispy cookies are a surefire hit.
Makes fifteen 5-inch cookies
A theatrical departure from mainstream chocolate chip cookies, these are large and decidedly flat. They shatter dramatically when you bite them, releasing loads of caramel brown sugar flavor and bursts of bittersweet chocolate. I created this recipe for the original Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory Store in Berkeley. These cookies will not spread as they should in a convection oven, so make them only if you have a conventional oven.
1 1/3 cups (6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) quick rolled oats
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (2 ounces) light corn syrup
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or
1 generous cup chocolate chips or chunks
Cookie sheets, lined with foil, dull side up
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
Combine the flour and baking soda in a small bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork.
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, oats, sugars, corn syrup, milk, and salt. Mix in the flour mixture. If the batter is warm from the butter, let it cool before adding the chocolate. Stir in the chocolate chunks. If possible, let the dough rest for at least several hours at room temperature or (better still) overnight in the fridge. The rest makes for an especially crisp and extra-flavorful cookie!
Divide the dough into 15 equal pieces (each a scant 1/4 cup or about 1.75 ounces). Lay out 3 sheets of aluminum foil, cut to fit your cookie sheets, on the counter. Arrange 5 pieces of dough (4 in a square and 1 in the center) well apart on each sheet of foil, remembering that the cookies will spread to 5 inches. Flatten each piece of dough until it is about 3K inches in diameter. Slide two of the sheets onto baking sheets.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cookies are thin and very brown. If they are too pale, they will not be crisp. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Slide the foil with cookies onto racks to cool completely before removing the cookies from the foil.
Repeat with the third batch—you can even slide the next foil and cookie dough onto a hot baking sheet as long as you put the pan in the oven immediately. Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing. May be kept in an airtight container for at least 3 days.
Excerpted from CHEWY GOOEY CRISPY CRUNCHY by Alice Medrich (Artisan Books).
Copyright 2010. Deborah Jones, photographer. Read our review of the book.
Today's recipe comes from Nigella Kitchen (Hyperion), the latest collection of recipes for "homey holiday cooking" from the British domestic goddess Nigella Lawson. Try this traditional English dessert as the comforting finale to a cozy fall meal.
Now, this is a beauty. I don’t mean flash or fancy—rather the opposite; there is something austerely handsome about its appearance, and yet gorgeously warming about its taste. But then, this laid-back Sunday-lunch pudding is what kitchen food is all about. I’m happy to leave the picture-perfect plate-decoration dessert to the professional chef and patissier. When I want to eat one, I’ll go to a restaurant. That way, everyone’s happy.
I don’t want to be too prescriptive about this marmalade pudding cake—which has the surprisingly light texture of a steamed sponge—as it doesn’t seem in the spirit of things. I love the bitter edge of a thick-shred, dark marmalade and so tend to go for a proper, glamorously auburn, tawny one here; if this is too full-on for you, choose a fine-shred marmalade, instead.
1 x 8-inch square Pyrex or other ovenproof dish
Preheat the oven to 350°F, and butter the ovenproof dish.
Put the 1/3 cup marmalade and juice of ½ orange into a small saucepan and set aside to make a glaze later.
Put all the other ingredients for the cake batter into a food processor, process them, and then pour and scrape the batter into the buttered dish, smoothing the top. If you’re not using a processor, cream the butter and both sugars by hand or in a freestanding mixer, beat in the marmalade followed by the dry ingredients, then the eggs, and finally the orange zest and juice.
Put in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes – though give a first check after 30 minutes – by which time the cake mixture will have risen and a cake tester will come out cleanish. Remove from the oven and leave in the dish.
Warm the glaze mixture in the saucepan until melted together, then paint the top of the cake, letting the chunks or slivers of peel be your sole, unglinting decoration on top of the mutely gleaming pudding-cake. Know that this cake will keep its orange-scented warmth for quite a while once out of the oven, so you could make it before you sit down for the main course.
Use a large spoon or cake slice (or both) to serve, and put a pitcher of cream or crème anglaise on the table to eat with.
I urge you to try to keep some of this cake back and, once it’s cold, wrap it well and keep it in the freezer (in an airtight container for up to 1 month) until you need something effortless for a casual dinner party. All you need do (and see p.171 for exact measurements and step-by-simple-step guide) is to thaw for 3–4 hours at room temperature, arrange some slices on a plate, douse with orange juice and liqueur, and top with blackberries strewn with orange zest [and you have an orange-blackberry trifle].
But I admit it’s hard to override the temptation to keep (for up to 2 days in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap) whatever pudding-cake may be left from its first outing and heat up the odd bowlful, or just eat it cold straight from the dish.
From Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. Photographs by Lis Parsons. Copyright (C) 2010 Nigella Lawson. Photographs copyright (C) 2010 Lis Parsons. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.
Marco Pierre White was the first British chef (and at the time, the youngest chef anywhere in the world) to win three Michelin Stars. In his new cookbook, Wild Food from Land and Sea (Melville House)—which cooking columnist Sybil Pratt deems full of "serious, sophisticated cooking"—the chef shares some recipes for complicated French classics. Today's recipe is for a luscious lemon tart.
A lemon tart cannot be served straightaway, as the middle will still be quite wet and runny. It needs to rest and set for at least an hour; when it will still be warm—the best way to serve it. However, it also tastes good cold a day later.
1. Roll out the pastry to ¼-inch thick, and use to line a 8-inch tart ring on a baking sheet, or a tin with a removable base. The ring or tin should be 1 ½-inchesdeep. Do not cut off excess pastry at the top at this stage.
2. Rest for at least an hour in the fridge to ensure the pastry will not shrink, then bake blind—lined with wax paper or foil and baking beans—in the oven pre-heated to 350°F for about 15 minutes, or until all visible pastry is thoroughly cooked. Remove the foil or paper and beans, leave to settle for a moment or two, then continue cooking for about 5 minutes more, until nice and golden. Keep in the ring. Reduce the oven temperature to 260°F. Check that there are no holes in the pastry shell.
3. Finely grate the zest from four of the lemons, and squeeze the juice from them all. Set aside.
4. Whisk the eggs and sugar together thoroughly in abowl, then add the lemon juice and zest. Stir in thecream.
5. Pour the lemon mixture into the pastry case and cook in the oven preheated to 260°F for 30–40 minutes,until starting to set in the center.
6. Remove from the oven, and trim and rest.
Recipe from Wild Food from Land and Sea by Marco Pierre White reprinted with permission from the publisher, Melville House. All rights reserved. Author photo by Granada Productions; book cover design by Kelly Blair.
This week's recipe is another delectable dessert option from The Perfect Finish, by Bill Yosses, a cook "so skilled at making divine desserts that he crosses party lines with impunity," [Read our full review here]. If you are looking to run for office, you could definitely get a few votes with this sinfully rich pudding.
Special Equipment: Sifter, food processor, 8 (6-ounce) ramekins or teacups, ?or a large decorative bowl
Softly whipped cream, for serving
About ½ pound bittersweet chocolate for curls
1. Sift the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper. Place the egg and yolks in a bowl, sprinkle the sugar mixture over them, and whisk to combine. Add a few tablespoons of milk to soften the mixture.
2. In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse the chocolate until it is finely chopped.
3. Over medium heat, bring the milk and vanilla bean seeds or vanilla extract to a boil. Whisking constantly, gradually pour the hot milk over the egg mixture. Return this liquid to the saucepan, continuing to whisk constantly, and cook over low heat, stirring, until the mixture has thickened and just begun to bubble, about 5 minutes (one visible bubble is sufficient!).
4. Immediately pour this custard into the food processor with the chocolate, add the butter, and run until smooth, about 1 minute.
5. Pour the pudding into eight 6-ounce ramekins or teacups, or one large decorative bowl. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days, and serve with whipped cream or chocolate curls.
Reprinted from The Perfect Finish by Bill Yossas (c) 2010. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Eat like a president with this delicious dessert recipe from The Perfect Finish (Norton), a new cookbook by White House Pastry Chef Bill Yossas. In her review, Sybil Pratt says that each of these desserts "deserves your full attention" and I think you'll agree once you read the following. Bon appetit!
An adaptation of the tender, very buttery little almond flour cakes called financiers, this is a dessert I learned to make while working at Au Vieux Four, an old wood-fired bakery in Tours, France. The owner, a ninth-generation baker named Jacques Mahou, who mentored me, primarily made bread, but he had a little sideline of super desserts, including this one. It’s very much the type of straightforward, quickly mixed dessert a French bread maker bakes along with the bread. Before serving, it is garnished with fresh fruit, which makes this very transportable dessert colorful and light at any time of year. Replace the raspberries used here with seasonal fruits in the spring, summer, and fall, or with imported tropical fruits in the winter.
Chef’s Note: It’s always a good idea to bring materials for touch-ups, such as extra confectioners’ sugar to sprinkle over a travel-worn cake such as this one.
Special Equipment: Food processor (if using ground almonds), ?9-inch springform pan, cake tester, sifter