Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bitter Triple Chocolate Bread

Rich and dense, this bread can make sophisticated peanut butter sandwiches and upscale french toast. It’s delicious just with butter, or butter and great quality preserves. It gets a deep chocolate flavor from chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and a little chocolate liqueur. If you like things like really dark chocolate and complex, full-bodied red wines, you’ll probably like this. If you’re looking for a bread that tastes more like cake, you might try Balthazar’s chocolate bread, which looks like a much sweeter loaf than this, and includes more sugar and chocolate chunks. The dough can be braid, or baked in a rustic boule Just adjust your baking time accordingly.

2 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
5½ cups of flour, and a little more to flour your board
4 T butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 T chocolate liqueur, like Godiva
4 eggs
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg, plus 1 T cold water for the egg wash before baking

Make an improvised double boiler:

Set a medium-sized sauce pan on the stove with a few inches of water in it. Turn the heat up to high to get it boiling. (If you have a double boiler, use that. I have one, but almost never bother with it for some reason.) When you make the chocolate sauce, you’ll want to use a heatproof bowl that fits the pot.

Make the mini sponge:
Combine the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

Pour in the lukewarm water. Whisk to mix.

Add 1 cup of the flour. Whisk to combine. Set it aside to let the yeast start bubbling for about 15 or 20 minutes.

Make the chocolate sauce:
Grab a heatproof bowl. Set it on top of the pot of boiling water you have on the stove. Turn the heat down to medium-high. Add the butter to the bowl to melt.

Toss the chocolate chips in with the butter.

Stir to combine as the butter and chocolate melt.

Pour in the heavy cream and chocolate liquor.

Mix well. When it’s completely combined, take the bowl off the heat. Turn off the stove and toss the boiling water.

Pour the chocolate sauce into a heatproof measuring cup or bowl and stick it in the fridge for maybe 10 minutes to start cooling it. Basically, you want to take the edge off the heat, so that when you add it to the sponge, it doesn’t scramble the eggs.

Next, add the eggs to the sponge.

While your chocolate sauce is cooling and your sponge is bubbling, beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl until light and frothy.

Pour the eggs into the sponge and whisk to combine well.

Your egg-y sponge should be fairly thin and runny and look about like this:

Add the chocolate sauce to the sponge

When the sauce has cooled slightly, drizzle it into the sponge. Go slowly, whisking briskly as you pour it in.

Your goal is to temper the chocolate sauce with the eggs, so that you raise the heat of the sponge and lower the heat of the sauce. (If you dump all the chocolate sauce in at once, you run the risk of literally scrambling the eggs).

Sift together and add the rest of the dry ingredients - the cocoa powder, the rest of the flour (4½ cups), and the salt.

Stir really well with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together and gets really stiff.

Knead the dough and set it aside for its first rise

With your hands, gather the dough up and press it into a rough ball. Turn it out onto a lightly floured board.

Knead the dough well, til it comes together into a smooth-ish ball. You’ll need a little elbow grease, because the dough is really pretty firm.

As you knead, you’ll feel the dough getting more and more elastic.

After a few minutes, form the dough up into a good ball. It should be firm, fairly dry, and not at all sticky.

Set the dough ball into a large mixing bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel to rise for about an hour or so, until it’s about doubled in size.

Shape the dough and set it aside for its second rise.

At this point, you’re going to form the dough into its final shape and let it rise again.

The instructions below show you how to make a braided loaf. If you want a different shape, you could shape it into one big round boule, a few smaller loaves, or even buns. It’s up to you. You’ll just need to adjust the baking time accordingly. (One large boule will probably take a little longer to bake, rolls will take considerably less time, etc.)

Punch the dough down to get the air out of it.

Turn it out onto a clean board and knead it well. The dough should be dry enough that you won’t need any flour on the board. (If you find that it’s sticking, sprinkle a little flour down.)

As you knead the dough, it’ll become firmer and more elastic. Any white flour left on the dough should disappear into the dough as you knead. Form it into a ball. Cut the dough into thirds.

Give each piece a little knead, then smoosh them flat and roll into long tubes using both your hands.

When you’ve rolled out all three pieces, smoosh the ends together to form a knot of sorts. You want the three pieces to stick together well to give you a good base for the braid.

Braid the dough. When you get to the end, tuck the ends together and fold them under the loaf.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Transfer your braided loaf onto the pan. Let it rise for about an hour, or until about double in size.

When the loaf has just about doubled in size, it’s almost ready to bake. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Make an egg wash by whisking one egg together with a little cold water.

Using a soft brush (or your fingertips), gently paint the top of the loaf with the egg wash. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. Keep an eye on it, as the final baking time will depend on how thick your braid is and how much size it gained during the last rise.

When is it done? By the color of the crust, and also by thumping on the bottom of the loaf with two fingers. If it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. If it makes a dampened, dull sound, it needs to bake a little longer.

When it’s done, take it out of the oven and slip it onto a rack to cool.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Those Potatoes

6-8 medium russet potatoes, peeled, quartered and boiled
3 chopped onions
1 clove of garlic, diced
8 oz. Philadelphia brand cream cheese, softened
16 oz. sour cream
6-8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare bacon and potatoes as directed, set aside.

Saute’ onions and garlic until soft; mix with bacon, set aside.

Mix sour cream and cream cheese until blended.

Add bacon mixture.

Dice or mash potatoes in large buttered casserole dish.

Add cream mixture to potatoes, blending well.

Bake for 40-50 minutes.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Penne alla Caprese in Crudo (Penne Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil & Mozzarella)

1 pound ripe and juicy cherry tomatoes (the ones on the vine are the best), rinsed, dried, and cut in half
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the finished pasta if you like
1 teaspoon sea salt, preferably coarse
Pinch crushed hot red pepper
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pound penne
10 fresh basil leaves, shredded
½ pound bocconcini (bite-size fresh mozzarella; cut in half)

Toss the tomatoes, oil, sea salt, and crushed red pepper together in a large bowl.

Whack the garlic with the side of a knife and toss it into the bowl.

Let marinate at room temperature, tossing once or twice, for 30 minutes.

While the tomatoes are marinating, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Stir the penne into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently.

Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the garlic from the marinated tomatoes and toss in the basil.

Drain the pasta, add it to the bowl, and toss well to mix.

Check the seasoning, adding salt and more crushed red pepper if necessary.

Gently stir in the bocconcini and serve.

Serves 6


Saturday, October 18, 2008


1½ cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
½ cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk or heavy cream
7 cups all purpose flour
4 T butter, at room temperature
flour, for sprinkling
vegetable oil for deep frying
powdered sugar

Put the warm water into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it.

Agitate the bowl to dissolve the yeast and let stand for 5 minutes.

Whisk in the sugar, salt, eggs and milk or cream and mix until smooth and creamy. Add half the flour and mix thoroughly. Stir in the butter and then gradually mix in the remaining flour.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours and as long as overnight.

To make the beignets, sprinkle flour over a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Cut the dough in half.

Fill a large pot with at least 3 inches of vegetable oil and heat to 360 degrees.

Set a flattened large brown paper bag next to the stove.

Roll or pat one piece of dough into a rectangle about ¥-inch thick and cut into 2½- or 3-inch squares. Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Drop a few squares of dough into the hot oil and cook for 90 seconds; turn and cook for about 1 minute more or until evenly browned, setting them to drain on the large paper bag.

Continue until all beignets are cooked.

Set the beignets on plates or on flat baskets covered with wax paper.

Put the powdered sugar into a sifter and sprinkle over the beignets so that they are well covered.

Serve immediately, with hot cafe au lait alongside.

Makes 4-5 dozen


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Malasadas, One Way

A cousin to beignets, malasadas were introduced to Hawaii by Portugese settlers.

2 T water, lukewarm
1 yeast cake
½ cup whole milk, lukewarm
1¼ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 T butter, melted
3 cups flour
3 eggs, beaten
vegetable oil, for frying

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and yeast, stirring until the yeast is dissolved. Pour the warm milk into a large bowl and add the yeast, sugar, salt and melted butter.

Stir in half the flour and mix until smooth.

Add the eggs, mix well and stir in the remaining flour, mixing until the dough is soft and smooth.

Cover the dough with a damp tea towel, set in a warm spot and let rise until the dough is doubled in bulk.

To cook, pour at least 3 inches of oil into a large pot and heat to 360 degrees.

Put about an inch of sugar into a brown paper lunch bag. Set a flattened large brown paper bag next to the stove.

Drop tablespoons of dough, a few at a time, into the hot oil and cook, turning once, until evenly golden brown. Transfer to the paper bag to drain briefly and then shake, a few at a time, in the sugar. Transfer to plates or wax-paper-lined baskets.

Serve immediately with hot coffee alongside.

Makes 6 dozen

Note: When using Fleischman’s RAPID RISE yeast, water and condensed milk should be between 120 to 130 degrees to activate the yeast. 140 degrees is too hot and will kill the yeast. Fleischman’s RAPID RISE yeast does not have to go through the second rise process that other yeasts have to go through, such as Fleischman’s ACTIVE DRY yeast.

Heat oil to 373 degrees.

-If oil is too hot; the malasada dough will pop right back up to the surface and the outside will brown too quickly while the inside will be undercooked
-If the oil isn’t hot enough; the malasadas dough will sit at the bottom of the oil
-If the temperature is right; The malasada dough should sit on the bottom of the oil for a few seconds and then rise to the surface. It should take about 3 minutes to cook on each side. Total of 6 minutes until a nice golden brown.

Test; Make a 2 to 3 inch ball and drop carefully into the oil. Cook for 6 minutes, take it out and cut in half to see if it is cooked completely through and the outside is a nice golden brown.

Making the malasadas ball the same size;

Oil hands if making balls with hands
Or use oiled spoons
Equal size malasadas, equal cooking time


Alexis Stewart's Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking sheets
3 cups packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups best quality chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment; set aside. Cream butter until smooth; add sugars, and beat until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Into a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Slowly beat dry ingredients into wet mixture. Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop 2 to 3 tablespoons dough per cookie onto prepared baking sheets; space dough at least 2 inches apart to allow for spreading. Bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove cookies from baking sheets, and allow to cool on baking racks.

Makes 50 4-inch cookies


Friday, October 3, 2008

The Best Macaroni & Cheese

8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices good quality white bread (Brother Juniper’s Struan), crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated gruyère or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino romano cheese
1 pound dried pasta, either elbow macaroni or small penne

Variation: Add 6 slices of bacon, cut into halves or thirds crosswise, to the water to boil the pasta and discard when the pasta is done.

Preparing the macaroni and cheese:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside.

Place the bread in a medium bowl.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat.

When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère (or 1 cup Pecorino Romano); set the cheese sauce aside.

Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well.

Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup gruyère (or 1/4 cup pecorino romano), and the breadcrumbs over the top.

Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.


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