matcha dark chocolate truffles

14 August, 2012 § Leave a comment

I stand firm in my belief that matcha should be in its own food group. Colorful, versatile, healthy, delicious…everything I look for in a superfood, check, check, check and check. Imagine how thrilled I was, having just bought a small tin of matcha (it’s surprisingly expensive!) at a local specialty foods store, to find a recipe for truffles! Just to give you an idea: very. I was very thrilled. So thrilled, in fact, that I made the huge batch pictured above for my mother for Mother’s Day last year. These little green balls of joy have been a staple in my truffle repertory ever since.

They’re relatively easy for such a fancy-looking truffle, and I love that they require no tedious chocolate coating at the end, as many truffle recipes require. The only difficulty you may come across is that in matcha that’s been sitting around for a while–see my recipe notes for more info. No adaptations excepting a minor recipe simplification or two.

Matcha Dark Chocolate Truffles Makes roughly 50 truffles
from Eric Gower’s The Breakaway Cook
8 ounces heavy cream
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon matcha, plus another tablespoon for dusting
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Scant 1/8 tsp of kosher salt

Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over gentle heat, add the maple syrup and brown sugar, and stir until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add one tablespoon of matcha, stir until dissolved, and set aside.

Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl and pour in the cream mixture. Mix thoroughly, and pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Smooth it out with a rubber spatula. Cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour (until you’re ready to make the truffles).

Using a spoon, scoop out a heaping teaspoon, and make a ball using the palms of your hands. Repeat until all the chocolate is used – you should wind up with about 50 truffles. Line them up on a tray or plate, and dust them with the additional matcha, using a fine sieve.

Notes
Cooling the truffle mixture is imperative for the truffles to keep their shape–when you mold them with your hands, the warmth of your hands rubbing them instantly heats the truffles. Work quickly and delicately, re-refrigerating if necessary.

Sometimes not-so-fresh matcha clumps up a bit, and you end up with stubborn little beads of matcha similar to those you get when sifting confectioner’s sugar. Once the matcha clumps up, it hardens in the saucepan as you cook them, which is unpleasant both taste- and texture-wise, so be careful.

sables korova (world peace cookies)

22 July, 2012 § Leave a comment

So, the title is my attempt to revert to the original name of what became Dorie Greenspan’s famous World Peace Cookies. I just think of A Clockwork Orange every time I hear ‘korova’, which isn’t that often anyway.

I made these cookies not only because they’ve gotten rave reviews on every food blog I like and trust, but because I needed a chocolate fix. And man, oh man, I think I’m fixed for good (read: maybe a day. Maybe.)

This post also marks the first in which I exclusively used my own photography!

I took the plunge and “fixed something that wasn’t broken” a.k.a. tweaked the recipe a bit, mainly because I wanted to make it slightly less of a fat-and-happy cookie, and more of a if-I’m-having-chocolate-it-will-be-of-the-milk-variety-thank-you-very-much cookie.

Enter Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips. There is much debate as to which chips are THE chips, and I don’t even think that these necessarily are, but they’re damn good for baking. I actually love Guittard chips, but Ghirardelli chips are a little better for baking, at least in my opinion, when you want ooey gooey chocolatey goodness. Guittard chips, however, are champs at retaining their shape.

I tried to tweak to a minimum, as this recipe seems to be pretty tried-and-true in the blogosphere. I’m sure that I would have been (almost) equally pleased with the original, even in the absence of milk chocolate. In short, I made these cookies a little bit milkier, healthier and saltier.

Sables Korova (World Peace Cookies) Makes 20 2-in cookies
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup high quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick salted light butter
3 tbs unsalted butter
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup Splenda
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Generous 2/3 cup milk chocolate chips, preferably Ghirardelli

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butters on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour mixture, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour (or just be careful) and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly . Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate–I used my hands so as not to break up the chips.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about one inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes, turning the sheet after 6–they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack, sprinkle them with superfine sea salt if you’re like me, and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

Notes
I don’t know what it was my changes to this recipe did, but my dough was not crumbly. It was delicious and salty-sweet, but not crumbly, even after refrigeration. Also, I prefer chewy cookies to cakey ones, and these came out heavily leaning towards the cakey side. The taste was nearly irresistible, but next time I might melt and cool the butter, refrigerate overnight rather than for a few hours, etc. This isn’t over, cookies!  (Of course, if you like cakey cookies, this is your ideal chocolate cookie recipe.)

raspberry-coconut macaroons

17 July, 2012 § Leave a comment

Image from Things We Make

As a self-proclaimed francophile, I’m naturally inclined to prefer macarons over macaroons. This recipe from Smitten Kitchen, however, nearly converted me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had the same effect on you.

These macaroons are so easy and pretty that they give you no excuse not to stock up on the simple ingredients required and make a batch right now. I wouldn’t even be offended if the grocery store temporarily took precedence over reading the entirety of this post (I’ll keep it short, promise.)

Image from Smitten Kitchen

The key here is NOT to mix the ingredients until well-blended–rather, the marble effect of the white on pinky red is, in my opinion, what makes the macaroons so pretty. To be honest, though, what I liked most about making them was the smell. While cookies make the whole house smell good while they’re in the oven, the generous amount of almond extract in these little guys made my Cuisinart burst with nutty goodness that seemed just pungent enough to reach my nose. Mmm.

Image from Things We Make

The adjustments I made to Smitten’s version were minor–I switched out the sugar for Splenda and used light sodium salt. The only major difference between hers and mine was the addition of white chocolate. I simply couldn’t resist. Things We Make had the idea, and there was really no question as to whether it would be delicious. Now, it should be noted that the macaroons hold their own. They don’t need the chocolate, but if you’re willing, I think white chocolate really took them up a notch. Because the chocolate is added at the end, it’s easy to accomodate even the non-chocoholics (gasp!) in your life.

Raspberry-Coconut Macaroons Makes 30-35 macaroons
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

14 ounces (400 grams) sweetened, flaked coconut
2/3 cup (130 grams) Splenda
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon Morton Lite salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
6 ounces (170 grams or 1 1/4 cups) fresh raspberries (if washed, patted very dry)
White chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor, blend the coconut for a minute. Add Splenda, blend another minute. Add egg whites, salt and almond extract and blend for another minute. Add raspberries and pulse machine on and off in short bursts until they are largely, but not fully, broken down. Some visible flecks of raspberry here and there are great. When you open the machine, you’ll see some parts of the batter that are still fully white while others are fully pink. Resist stirring them together.

With a tablespoon measure or cookie scoop, scoop batter into 1-inch mounds. You can arrange the cookies fairly close together as they don’t spread, just puff a bit. Scooping a little of the pink batter and a little of the white batter together makes them look extra marble-y and pretty.

Bake cookies for 25 to 30 minutes, until they look a little toasted on top (I didn’t allow them to brown as in the image above because I liked them better that way, but bake to your preference.) Let them rest on the tray for at least 10 minutes after baking, as they’ll be hard to move right out of the oven. They’ll firm up as they cool, but still remain softer and less dry inside than traditional macaroons. (As in, over a week later and the texture is virtually unchanged. Go moisture!)

Notes
If you’re choosing to go the white chocolate route–and I applaud you if you do–this is where it finally comes in. Melt however much white chocolate you’re planning to use in either a double boiler or a microwave safe bowl, and wait just a moment after removing from heat so it’s not so drippy. Dip each macaroon in the chocolate halfway and replace it on the baking sheet, allowing the chocolate to harden before storing the macs. If you so choose, you can dip just the bottom or even the whole macaroon, but I thought that half chocolate and half pinky white looked especially nice. Alas, I have no evidence left because all of the macs got eaten before I remembered to snap a picture. 

lavender-lemon risotto

8 July, 2012 § Leave a comment

Somewhere along the line, you’re gonna crave pudding. And whether it be in the winter months like a normal person, or at the start of a sticky, sweaty, start-having-conversations-with-your-aircon July (like me), that pudding will really hit the spot. For me, that pudding was lavender-lemon risotto.

I’ve always been a big fan of rice pudding. It’s a simple, unassuming dessert that doesn’t want any trouble–sort of like that crying girl who’s bent on unity in Mean Girls. I’ve had it at home when I feel under the weather (hey, Cozy Shack) and at steakhouses as a followup to a filet mignon (I’m convinced they’ve made a pact to always top with cinnamon). What this rice pudding offers is something different–something more sophisticated and delicate, but still comforting and delicious.

When I contemplated how I could tweak this recipe I considered the obvious–Splenda over Sugar–as well as the more challenging. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the heavenly creaminess of rice pudding for more favorable nutrition facts, but rice pudding is supposed to make you feel better, not guilty.

The natural thing to do was to make it with low-fat milk, but I’d have to compensate somehow to salvage the creaminess factor. Enter arborio rice. Arborio rice, otherwise known as the risotto rice, has a much higher starch content than the long-grain white rice used in the original recipe–as does sushi rice, for the record. The higher starch provides any creaminess I would’ve missed using my trusty 1% Horizon Organic. So, pudding lovers, rice pudding is not a crime.

Lemon-Lavender Risotto
adapted from Adventures in Cooking

Pudding
2 cups 1% milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup Splenda or preferred sugar substitute
1 egg yolk
1 tea bag, empty
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried lavender
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Optional Garnish
1/4 tsp dried lavender
1/2 tsp largely grated lemon zest

Place the dried lavender in the tea bag, staple it shut with a string attached and set aside.

Heat the milk, rice, sugar, water and bag of lavender in a medium sized pot until it begins to boil. Reduce heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning.

Remove the pot from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, lemon juice and finely grated lemon zest.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk at high speed until slightly bubbly on top, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Scoop 1 tablespoon of the rice pudding into the egg yolk, stirring constantly. Continue to add rice pudding to the egg yolk mixture tablespoon by tablespoon, mixing well.

Scoop the rice pudding into 4 individual serving bowls and garnish with the remaining lavender and the largely grated lemon zest. Serve warm or chilled.

Notes
A little lavender escaped from my tea bag into the rice pudding, and no taste buds were harmed. Don’t worry if you have the same problem. Also, be picky about the pith when grating your lemon zest–if any pith sneaks into the pudding, its bitterness will come right through. Finally, I ended up pouring a splash or two more milk into my pot to keep the pudding from getting too dense, so pour to your preference. Be advised, however, that the arborio quickly absorbs the milk and rethickens. 

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