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Marchocolate – Flourless Chocolate Cookies

IMG 2887 Edited Marchocolate   Flourless Chocolate Cookies

It didn’t seem right to leave March without one final Marchocolate recipe, so Flourless Chocolate Cookies it is! I bookmarked the recipe for Flourless Chocolate Cookies as I browsed through  One Sweet Cookie: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes Marchocolate   Flourless Chocolate Cookies during a recent trip to the library. What I liked about this cookie cookbook was its compilation of recipes from many chefs. What I did not like about this cookie cookbook was its lack of photographs.

A photo appeared only every few (if that) pages, and those that did appear weren’t so great (like I should talk). Fortunately, flourless chocolate cookies was a recipe graced with a photo. I’m a visual learner, so seeing what a cookie I’ve never baked is supposed to look like always helps in my attempts to bake it at home.

IMG 2899 Edited Marchocolate   Flourless Chocolate Cookies

The requirement of 4 egg whites lent this cookie a sheen that anyone who has ever made meringue cookies would easily recognize. I’ve made meringue cookies, but you’ve never seen them because they were giant fails (after only a few minutes in the oven, they turned brown instead of remaining white). The recipe also called for 2 3/4 cups of walnuts, but since the people whom I planned to share these with do not care for nuts, I added one cup of mini-chocolate chips in place of the walnuts.

The cookie batter is rather thin as are the resultant cookies. It’s also worth noting both in this post and in the recipe that batter spreads quite a bit during baking. Be sure to leave plenty of room between each cookie on your baking sheet.

IMG 2891 Edited Marchocolate   Flourless Chocolate Cookies

The chef who shared the recipe is quoted, “They have a slightly crunchy exterior, and a soft, almost brownie-like interior.” His description sums the flourless chocolate cookies up better than anything I could write, so I will just reiterate the cookies really are brownie-like.

Not sure what to do with those four leftover egg yolks? With just one more yolk, you could make a lovely French Buttercream. Or you could make Egg Yolk Cookies or Egg Bagels. Try ‘em out, and enjoy!

IMG 2911 Edited Marchocolate   Flourless Chocolate Cookies

Flourless Chocolate Cookies
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • ½ cups plus 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  3. Slowly add the egg whites and the vanilla.
  4. Beat on medium speed for three minutes. Do not overbeat as this will result in overly thick egg whites.
  5. After three minutes, stop the mixer and fold in the mini chocolate chips.
  6. Scoop one tablespoon of the batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Allowing room for spread, scoop a second tablespoon of the batter about three inches from the first scoop. Repeat this process until all of the batter is used.
  8. Reduce the oven temperature to 320 F and bake the cookies 14-16 minutes. Small, thin cracks should appear on the cookies.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Notes
Variation based on the original recipe: Substitute 2¾ cups toasted and chopped walnuts for the one cup of mini-chocolate chips.
 

Cooking Hard Stuff: Lemon Gratins

IMG 2874 Edited Edited Cooking Hard Stuff: Lemon Gratins

My friend Libby recently sent me an email to ask if I had ever made a gratin. Since I instantly thought of potatoes upon reading the word gratin, and Libby’s gratin was a lemon dessert, my answer was a definitive no. Libby described the Meyer Lemon Gratin she tried at Cameron’s American Bistro as one of the best things she’d ever tasted. Not just one of the best desserts she’d ever tasted, but one of the best foods she’d ever tasted.  I was sold.

Though I knew I would try to make the lemon gratin because 1) Libby asked, 2) Libby said it was delicious, and 3)  it gave me a reason to buy ramekins, I put it off in favor of other things. I started to plan on making the gratin in June to celebrate my first year of blogging.  Then I read a blog post Julie at Willow Bird Baking wrote about Cooking Hard Stuff. I thought it was timely in regards to the gratin, so I bought ramekins, two pounds (two pounds!) of cream cheese, and started cooking.

IMG 2875 Edited Edited e1332983897394 Cooking Hard Stuff: Lemon Gratins

In her blog post, Julie stressed the need to read a recipe in full before beginning, and I agree whole-heartedly. We sometimes unnecessarily defeat ourselves when, mid-recipe, we realize a trip to the grocery store is needed for one crucial ingredient. Or, again mid-recipe, we encounter an unfamiliar technique or realize more time than allotted will be needed for rising or chilling or baking before any eating will occur. When cooking hard stuff, one may find the recipes are not as hard as much as they are unfamiliar.

For example, this gratin recipe requires 3 1/2 hours of bake time followed by the need to cool overnight. Throw in the need to whip and mix three separate ingredients – heavy cream, egg whites, and the cream cheese mixture – and you could find yourself frustrated if you did not plan how to use your mixer in advance. Then realize the mixture bakes in ramekins placed in a water bath, and you might be ready to throw in the towel. Oh, and did I mention the ingredient list calls for two pounds (!) of cream cheese? Reading the recipe in advance removes the elements of surprise as they relate to time, ingredients, and techniques so cooking and baking may commence accordingly.

IMG 2876 Edited Edited Cooking Hard Stuff: Lemon Gratins

I wrote the recipe below to reflect how I made my lemon gratins. As you read through it before you begin, you may decide to do things in a different order, like whip the egg whites and whipped cream before beating the cream cheese. Or maybe you may want to place your ramekins in the pan before you fill them with the gratin mixture. Do whatever works for you.

The original recipe states, “The hardest part of this recipe is figuring out exactly how long it should cook. When done correctly, the top should just be firm to the touch, not be browned or cracked.” Well, so much for that. After about an hour and a half, the tops of my gratins were slightly browned. I do a great deal of guessing with my oven, but I did not expect browned tops with two hours of bake time left. I elected to carry on, and the condition of the gratins worsened only minimally.

IMG 2856 Edited Cooking Hard Stuff: Lemon Gratins

Correctly baked gratins should not have browned or cracked tops. Oops!

Not only did my gratins look fairly ugly just out of the oven, I didn’t do them any favors by turning them out of the ramekins. I prettied them up the best I could with a whipped cream garnish and a bed of citrus slices. Next time, I might just serve the gratin in the ramekins.

Though my gratins turned out much less lovely than I had hoped, and I was unable to find Meyer Lemons at my local stores, they still tasted delightful. Sweet, lemony, and smooth – a taste that deepened and improved as the week wore on. I used regular lemons, though Meyer lemons are sweeter and more flavorful. I simply didn’t want to use their lack of availability as an excuse not to cook some hard stuff.

IMG 2866 Edited Cooking Hard Stuff: Lemon Gratins

Remind me why I removed the gratins from their happy ramekin homes.

By now some of you may be wondering about the difference between a gratin and a cheesecake. I certainly was after baking two pounds of cream cheese flavored with citrus and sweetened with sugar. The closest I could come to an answer was the English word gratin translates to “grate” in French, and a gratin is a dish cooked to a brown crust. Cast in that light, my golden brown gratin crusts don’t seem so bad.

Someday, when I own an oven with a properly calibrated temperature (I’m pretty sure mine is off) and a door with a window (so I can see my baked foods without opening the door and disturbing them), I will try this again.

Were the gratins pretty? No. Were the gratins tasty?  Yes.  Are gratins worth trying on your own? Definitely!

IMG 2870 Edited Edited e1332984219628 Cooking Hard Stuff: Lemon Gratins

 

Lemon Gratin
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds cream cheese
  • 1¾ cup sugar
  • 2 (Meyer) lemons, juiced and zested
  • ½ orange, juiced and zested
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 egg whites
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons sour cream
  • if desired, additional whipped cream for garnish
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar, and the lemon and orange zests.
  2. Beat until very smooth, about four to five minutes.
  3. Add the lemon and orange juices, egg yolks, and the vanilla to the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Continue to beat until well blended.
  5. While the mixtures combine, place the heavy cream in a medium bowl and use a hand mixer to beat until the cream is whipped.
  6. Then place the egg whites in a separate medium bowl and use the hand mixer to beat to stiff peaks.
  7. Fold the whipped cream and the sour cream into the smooth cream cheese mixture.
  8. Then fold in whipped egg whites and gently mix until blended.
  9. Prepare six, 10 ounce ramekins by coating the insides with vegetable spray then coating with sugar.
  10. Ladle about 8 ounces of the mixture into each sugared ramekin and smooth the surface.
  11. Place the ramekins in a 9 x 13 pan and fill the pan with ½ inch of hot water.
  12. Bake in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
  13. After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 225 degrees and continue to bake for 3½ hours.
  14. When done, the gratins should be slightly firm to the touch, but not browned or cracked.
  15. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and allow to cool overnight.
  16. To serve, run a spatula or knife along the inside edge of each ramekin to separate the mixture from the side.
  17. Place upside down on serving plate and garnish as desired.
 

Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Dutch Crunch Bread & Curried Chicken Salad

IMG 2845 Edited Daring Bakers Challenge   Dutch Crunch Bread & Curried Chicken Salad

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

Dutch what? Given I haven’t stepped foot west of the Rockies in 10 years (insert frown here) and have yet to travel to the Netherlands (still frowning),  I had never heard of  Dutch Crunch prior to this challenge. I have since learned Dutch Crunch is a topping applied to a bread, and in the States, is quite popular in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I was pleased to have a reason to try a recipe popular in San Francisco as my co-workers and I recently gained a new group of colleagues located in the Bay Area. I don’t like to talk about “my real work” on Love & Flour, but I thought it warranted mentioning because a San Francisco vibe has been in the air.

Now that I think of it, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo recently re-branded the last of the Wachovias  where I banked here in Charlotte. I’m wondering if I should actually start to worry about some sort of San Francisco take over of Carolina.

IMG 2825 Edited Daring Bakers Challenge   Dutch Crunch Bread & Curried Chicken Salad

Frankly, I wouldn’t care, because Dutch Crunch bread can take over my kitchen anytime. Granted, bread is my favorite food, so therein lies my bias, but yum!

Dutch Crunch bread is also sometimes called Tiger Bread since the topping can crack into a striped pattern. I liked how the Dutch Crunch topping on my rolls gave the appearance of a turtle shell instead. I do wonder if this could have anything to do with my use of the full Dutch Crunch topping recipe on my six rolls when the recipe was actually written for topping 12 rolls. Oops.

When my taste tester took a bite of the Dutch Crunch bread, the first comment was, “mmm, sourdough.” Well not quite, given I baked a soft white roll, but since San Francisco is also know for sourdough, fine by me.

To complete the challenge, we were instructed to make a sandwich using our Dutch Crunch bread. I adapted a curried egg salad recipe into curried chicken salad, though with Easter nearing, the egg salad option presents a great way to use leftover hard boiled eggs. The rolls I made also puffed up large enough to use as bread bowls for soup should one be so inclined.

IMG 2848 Edited Daring Bakers Challenge   Dutch Crunch Bread & Curried Chicken Salad

Sara & Erica included a few links in their instructions so those of us unfamiliar with Dutch Crunch could educate ourselves. An article from The Bay Citizen stated, “Until recently, Dutch crunch was largely unknown outside of the Bay Area and the Netherlands, but the rest of the world is starting to catch on.”

When I read that the first time, my heart beat a sigh of love. It’s a pretty mundane sentence, but it perfectly sums up why I love baking new things. Just like books (my love for which I will write about one day), cooking and baking new recipes with unfamiliar ingredients or techniques presents me with a simple way to explore the big wide world from my teeny tiny kitchen. I hope you will have a chance to do some exploring soon too. Enjoy!

Curried Chicken Salad on Dutch Crunch Bread
 
Author:
Recipe type: Bread, Entree
Ingredients
  • Curried Chicken Salad
  • 1 - 14.5 ounce can of shredded chicken
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon apricot preserves
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dutch Crunch Topping (for 12 rolls)
  • 1½ cups white or brown rice flour (not sweet or glutinous rice flour)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Soft White Rolls (for 6 rolls)
  • 1 cup warm milk (I used whole, though the authors reported no noticeable differences between nonfat and 2%)
  • ¼ cup warm water (lukewarm, not hot, to the touch)
  • 1½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus additional for greasing a bowl
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. To make the Curried Chicken Salad:
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine.
  3. To make the Dutch Crunch topping:
  4. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk to combine.
  5. The consistency should be stiff (like royal icing), spreadable, but not too runny. When you pull up on the wire whisk, the mixture should drip off in a slow, steady stream rather than run off quickly or drop off in clumps.
  6. In necessary, add more water or rice flour to adjust the consistency. (I added just under a tablespoon of additional water).
  7. Allow the mixture to stand for 15 minutes before applying to the bread.
  8. To make the soft white rolls:
  9. In the bowl of an electric mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the milk, water, sugar, and yeast.
  10. Stir to dissolve and let sit for about 5 minutes until the mixture starts to bubble or foam a bit.
  11. Add the vegetable oil, salt and 2 cups of the flour.
  12. Using the dough hook attachment or a wooden spoon, mix until the dough comes together.
  13. Add the remaining flour a quarter cup at time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (I used an additional 1¾ cups flour for a total of 3¾ cups).
  14. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 4 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  15. Place the dough ball in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  16. Allow to rise for 1 hour or until at least doubled in size.
  17. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 6 equal portions to make rolls or 2 equal portions to make a loaf. Shape into balls or loafs accordingly, but try to handle the dough as little as possible.
  18. Place the formed dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for the 15-20 minutes required to prepare the Dutch crunch topping.
  19. Once the topping has been prepared, use your fingers or a spoon to thickly coat the top of each roll or loaf with the topping. Err on the side of applying too much topping as a thin layer will not crack properly.
  20. Bake at 380 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until browned.
  21. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Notes
The curried chicken salad can be modified to curried egg salad by substituting 6 hard boiled eggs, chopped, for the chicken. Reduce the mayonnaise to ¼ cup, and if desired, substitute ½ cup chopped English cucumber for the celery.