Tag Archives: chocolate

Thomas Keller’s Cocoa Brownies

I can’t tell you how often I dream about Thomas Keller. I think about him all the time. I hope this isn’t creepy. I just adore his imaginative and playful outlook on food, his down-to-earth personality, and immense knowledge of food and cooking techniques. He thinks about food in a way that is simply unparalleled. He wants to make awesome meals for his guests, yes, but he also wants it to evoke a memory and touch people in a personal way. It’s not just eating, it’s experiencing flavors and textures. Other chefs, even Anthony Bourdain, are humbled by his plates. No one can do what he does. I think he’s brilliant. Chad thinks he’s a stoner (the idea of “how else does he think of this stuff?!”). I just want to eat with him, talk to him, have him sign something, make him food. I think he’d like my split red lentil soup with red pepper paste. He’s incredible. Incredible enough that I would actually pay $300 to eat in his restaurants. If I had a spare $300. And I most certainly don’t. I do have his newest cookbook though and with it, I learned his brownie recipe. Oh lord. These brownies.

I’m reading his cookbook as if he wrote it just for me…to teach me to cook aaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way from Yountville. I mean, it’s just not practical to expect him to come to Indiana to teach me. So I understand why he wrote a book for me. He’s telling me how to properly cut up a chicken (two different ways) and why he’s against tongs. I’ve already followed his advice about dating my spice jars (see how well I follow directions, Thomas!) and I’ve made an imitation recipe for his cream of walnut soup. This is as close to French Laundry or Per Se or Ad Hoc as I can get (for now).

He seems to be in Julia Child’s camp on the butter topic, no? There are three, count ’em, three sticks of butter in these. And he’s solved the “I forgot to sit out my butter and it’s not room temperature!” problem too. He’s wonderful.

3/4 C AP flour
1 C unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp salt (Kosher is best here)
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into Tbsps
3 eggs, large
1 3/4 sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C dark chocolate, cut in to pieces

Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 9×9 dish. Combine flour, salt, and cocoa and set aside. Melt half of the butter in a small saucepan. When completely melted, pour over the remaining, chopped butter. Stir well and smush with a fork until you can only see tiny bits of solid butter. Now your butter is room temperature and you have witnessed firsthand how the mad food scientist has solved a classic baking problem.

Mix together eggs and sugar in a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer) until thick and pale. Add vanilla and then the flour mixture and butter in thirds, first flour then butter. When all is incorporated, fold in chocolate bits. Spread the decadent batter into the baking dish. Let your roommate erase her bad day with the spatula and batter bowl. Bake brownies for the longest 40-45 minutes of your life.

Let brownies cool 20 minutes before cutting into pieces. Or, if you can’t be bothered to wait, just hack into them with abandon.

Let’s be completely honest here. I make a lot of brownies. I’ve come from the box brownie land to the classic one bowl recipes to various twists (like spicy brownies!) and intensely cocoa brownies. I thought I had found the best ever cocoa brownies (and don’t worry I’ll still post those since they’re better than these for storing in the freezer) but these are buttery and rich and so chocolatey.

And I feel like these will be a good bribe/thank you to the apple guys if/when they fix my computer for free. They haven’t called about it yet so I’m hoping that’s a good sign…a sign that they’re busy and up to their elbows in, um, modems and processors. Or something.

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Salted Butter Caramel & White Chocolate Matzo

Because I’m totally Jewish and this is an appropriate recipe for me to obsess over? Last April when Deb (of the smitten kitchen) posted her recipe for chocolate caramel crack(ers)–that is, crackers that are crackly and addictive like crack–I made them immediately. Being a gentile and all, this was my first experience with matzo and I was hoooked. I didn’t even look to see if matzo was reserved for certain days or if there was a specific thing you were supposed to eat them with. I just unabashedly munched. Matzo is sort of like a saltine cracker with a way better texture. I, like Deb apparently, love to eat the cuisines of other religions. Last year I fasted for the last day of Ramadan and went to a big dinner at school that was catered by all the Middle Eastern restaurants in town. Other than almost passing out from not eating (I have low blood pressure and sugar…and according to Chad I get SUPER cranky when I don’t eat), the whole day was great. I got to eat lots of yummy foods and hear a lot of great speakers and highly-regarded professors speak and pray. It was a cool experience. So I take every opportunity to eat foods from other cultures and religions. Deb’s chocolate caramel crackers are yummy and, yes, addictive. I wanted to make something yummy for the passover season (again because I’m Jewish?) so I made her crackers but with a couple changes.

I was intrigued by David Lebovitz’ description of the white chocolate/caramel flavor combination. So I whipped up some of his salted butter caramel to cover the matzo and microwaved (<–lazy!) some white baking chocolate to pipe over the top. This is easy, delicious, and uhhhhdictive.

Total delicious concept adapted from smittenkitchen who adapted it from David Lebovitz who adapted it from Marcy Goldman. Salted butter caramel adapted from David Lebovitz who is just kind of my favorite person sometimes:

4-6 matzo crackers (I used whole white here just for kicks but it’s better with the regular kind)
3/4 C heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp kosher (<-logic!) salt
1/2 C light corn syrup
1 C sugar
4 Tbsp salted butter (or unsalted butter with salt added)
3 squares of white baker’s chocolate
candy thermometer

Arrange matzo crackers on a parchment lined baking sheet. Try to break them so that they completely cover the surface of the sheet.

Heat the cream, vanilla, 2 Tbsp of the butter, and half of the salt in a little saucepan. Keep barely warm. In a separate saucepan (use your copper pots if you have them! they’re best for caramel-makin’) fitted with a candy thermometer melt the sugar and corn syrup over medium-high heat. Stir slightly to avoid hot spots using a spatula or wooden spoon–the most important thing is that it is heat resistant to high heat. Mine is from a restaurant supply store and it’s heat resistant to 600° or something ridiculous like that but I’ve heard good things about le creuset spatulas. Sugar gets HOT so be careful. David Lebovitz has a great caramel-making tip sheet. Heat the sugar to 310° and remove saucepan from heat. I place the whole pot on a trivet next to the stove. Add the cream mixture slowly while stirring constantly. Keeeeeeep stirring until it is all incorporated. You might have big hunks of melted sugar syrup at first but don’t worry, they’ll mix in. Return the pot to the stove and heat to 260°. Remove from heat and add the last two Tbsp of butter and the second 1/2 tsp of salt.

Pour over the crackers and smooth over the tops with the spatula. Work quickly as the caramel will set up really quickly. After spreading the caramel all over the crackers, heat the white chocolate in a dish in the microwave or in a double boiler. Pour into a bag or a piping bag. Cut the tip off of the bag and pipe over the top of the caramel.

Let them cool completely before breaking or cutting into squares. Eat furiously and commence your conversion to Judaism.

Julia Child’s Mousse au Chocolat

Every time I look through my Bon Appetit cookbook, Chad acts all wounded that I’m not using my Mastering the Art of French Cooking book–the one he gave me. I’ve tried to explain that “Julia Child didn’t make brownies!” but he keeps up his act and I start feeling guilty. Today I’ve solved this by using, lovingly, my Julia Child Bible to make her incredible, indescribable mousse au chocolat.

Please make this. I’m begging you. If you love chocolate or even just feel sort of good about it, you will find nirvana in this French dessert brought to you by Saint Julia by way of yours truly.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that this isn’t sort of a pain to make. You will have the pleasure of washing three separate bowls and unless you have an extra set of beaters or a whisk for your hand mixer, you get to wash them between beating the yolks and the whites. So you might find it best to make this for a dinner event where you want to impress people (mothers-in-law?). Or if you’re like me and you’ve had a heck of a day you might want to do something slightly tedious that will require concentration on it and not those things that bothered you all day.

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

4 eggs, divided
3/4 C powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp liquor optional (I used brandy)
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
pinch of espresso powder
3/4 C unsalted butter, softened
pinch of salt
sprinkle of granulated sugar

I have a nesting set of three glass bowls that is perfect for this. You will need at least two bowls that can function as a double boiler. I’m using the largest bowl to beat the egg yolks (reserve the whites in a separate bowl!) and the powdered sugar until it forms a light yellow ribbon that falls on itself. Sit this aside for a few minutes while you unwrap the baking chocolate and put it in the smallest bowl over a double boiler. Get a second, bigger double boiler ready for the egg yolk mixture. You’re going to beat the egg yolk mixture for 4 minutes (use a timer, you guys) over the double boiler while the steam is hitting the bottom of the bowl. You’re cooking the eggs here because some people aren’t a fan of raw eggs.

Your chocolate should be mostly melted when by the time you’re finished beating the egg yolks. Stir a pinch of espresso powder into the the melted chocolate. Julia’s recipe calls for a tablespoon of coffee, but I never really feel like making coffee just for a tablespoon. I imagine the reason behind the coffee is to intensify the chocolate flavor and you can get the same effect by adding a pinch of espresso powder. If you don’t have it, use coffee or coffee extract. Or omit it if you are a rebel rebel. Now add the butter, two tablespoons at a time, to the chocolate and stir well. The chocolate will look glossy and delicious. Remember that it’s unsweetened and you don’t actually want to sneak a taste.

Grab that OTHER BOWL and beat the egg whites and the pinch of salt until they form soft peaks. Then add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. The chocolate mixture should be cool enough now to add to the egg yolk mixture. It might look gloopy and odd at first. Just keep stirring. Now stir about one-fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate/yolk mix. Fold in the rest in batches. Be careful so you don’t smush all the air out of the egg whites.

“Smush?” I’m so technical, aren’t I? These really are the words I use in my head when I’m cooking. My culinary vocabulary is vast, but I typically use my onomatopoeia words.

When the contents of the three bowls are (finally) combined, spoon the INCREDIBLY DECADENT AWESOMENESS into soufflé cups or teacups or small bowls. Try to smooth the tops completely flat OR learn to accept life’s imperfections. And then lick the spoon.

Refrigerate these little dishes of pure chocolate heaven for 2 hours. If you can stand it. I won’t judge if you break out a soufflé dish after an hour and 22 minutes. Because look at this stuff. And then eat it while watching the Swedish Chef make it. It will cause giggling and happiness.

Uhmazing. You know what else is amazing? Su and her hippie Sparky. Look what they gave me–just because!

Su said they wanted to give me a little gift since I bring in food so often and it couldn’t have been at a better time. I was in a rotten mood (because PEOPLE DON’T KNOW HOW TO DRIVE) and she completely brightened my day. Thanks again Su and Homefire! You’re my favorite hippies!

Army Care Packages & Magic-Magic Bars

I am frequently faced with the task of making food to be sent by plane, car, or mail. Having spoiled my California co-workers with strawberry-chocolate scones and multitudes of cookies and cupcakes, I was asked to send goodies along with my brothers and dad when they came to Indiana for a visit last Easter. The dilemma of making sendable food was made more difficult withthe addition of my Uncle Steve whose powerful and insatiable sweet tooth is talked about in hushed, reverent tones across the San Diego area. Baked goods and sweets of any kind are not safe in his presence. That weekend I supplied myself with extra candy for the candy bowls, made cinnamon crusted nutmeg muffins to be eaten with strawberries for a quick Easter breakfast, and called on my most sendable standby recipes to be packaged and hauled off.

That weekend I created my extra magic magic bars. Magic-Magic Bars. They’ve been called orgasmic. So when my super cute roommate wanted to send a care package to her husband, they immediately sprang to mind. She wanted to learn how to make granola bars and maybe try her hand at caramels, but I needed to make something too and without question, dear Danny would make friends with these goodies to hare. I mean Lt. Dan. That’s his name now. He’s important and probably decent at shrimping. But way cuter.
(Photo by Geyer Photography)
Wouldja believe that strappin’ young man and that cute lil lady are hitched? Oh, to be young and in love…Oh wait! I am. Hehe. Got carried away there.
Make these magic bars. Maybe make a double batch. Send these to someone you love who is far away and unhuggable. Send them to your people serving overseas. Send them love and food because Lord knows that crap they’re eating isn’t nearly deserving of their hard work and patriotism. Or send them to your kids in college. Dorm food sucks and even if you’re sending care packages every week, they could use another. I never got one living in the dorms. *sniff* So send them one for my sake.
I have always followed the Joy of Baking recipe and instructions, but it’s pretty much the same everywhere you look.
1 stick melted, unsalted butter
1 1/2 C crushed up graham crackers
1 1/2 C shredded coconut
3/4 C chocolate chips
1 C crushed mini pretzels (twisted or sticks)
1/3 C crushed pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 325. Stir together the grahams and butter and press firmly into the bottom of a 9×9 pan. Sprinkle the coconut over top, followed by the chocolate chips and then the mini-pretzel/pecan mixture. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the whole pan and bake for 25 mins at 325.

IF sending by mail or plane, wrap first in cling wrap, then tuck into zip-top bags. Air is your worst enemy in these situations. Steal a sturdy box from your office or Starbucks or McDonalds (people rave about their boxes) and pack tightly. Got room? Send our boys and girls some hot sauce packets, barbeque sauces, and their favorite candies. I’ve been told hot sauce is neccessary for most Army food. Don’t skimp because they’ll share with buddies. Add a note, a kiss, and safe wishes.