Archives for category: Chocolate

Yesterday was all about the snow storm. It seemed to come from out of nowhere: beginning at 11 am Brooklyn began its transformation from mid-fall stupor to winter wonderland. The snow came down fast and hard and blanketed New York City with three inches by the evening.

Last night, despite the inclement weather, eight of us made it to poker in Fort Greene. I decided I’d bring a dessert—it was a perfect day after all for staying inside with the oven on—and landed on a chocolate tart recipe by the trusty David Lebovitz. But first I needed to pick up the few ingredients I didn’t already have on hand (the chocolate, for one), and a tart mold.

I’ve been needing a tart pan for ages so ran into Whisk on Bedford Ave. Whisk is a great kitchen supply store that opened in Williamsburg maybe two years ago and carries top of the line everything. Yuji double-parked out front and I ran in prepared to wince at the price tag and fork over my Visa. But it would be worth it, I thought, for a delicious chocolate tart! Well wasn’t I pleasantly surprised when the mold turned out to be a reasonable $8.99. And the icing on the cake? Christina Tosi, the Wonka-esque pastry chef, was in the back room signing copies of her new book, Momofuku Milk Bar, released this fall by Clarkson Potter.

Given the freezing rain and general freakishness of the weather I was not surprised to find her hanging out with just a couple of Whisk employees, sitting around shootin the you-know-what, without many groupies in sight. I went up and introduced myself and then helped myself to two of her famous cake truffles, birthday cake and dulce de leche. Only three letters to describe those things: O-M-G. I flipped through the book, thanked her for her pastry wizadry and dashed back out into the freezing rain, into the warmth of the Volvo. It was an auspicious beginning to the tart-making.

Back at the ranch, I began by making the pastry, for which I also used the recipe from David’s blog. It really was quite an easy job, requiring neither a stand mixer or electric appliance of any kind. He has a funny post here describing how he came to this particular recipe. You put butter, vegetable oil, water, sugar, and salt into an oven-proof bowl and place that in a hot oven for about fifteen minutes. You take it out, add the flour, and voila, there is your pastry, ready to roll out into the tart shell.

Using the heel of your hand you press the dough into the tart mold. You bake this in the oven to a golden brown before inserting your filling.

The filling is all about bitter chocolate. But first actually you make caramel on the stovetop, melting the sugar until it is a liquid, sweet gold, and then fold in your chocolate. Buy good quality bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate. The recipe also calls for adding 6 tbsp of coffee and just a tsp of vanilla extract. You pour the mixture into your cooled tart dough and then pop it back into the oven.

The resulting tart tasted hardly sweet; with the deep dark notes of the caramel, coffee, and chocolate, it was a nice ending to our pre-poker dinner of braised short ribs, polenta, and broccoli rabe. I was lucky the tart turned out well, but not quite as lucky at poker. In the end I only lost $6 though.

French Pastry Dough
Adapted from Paule Caillat of Promenades Gourmandes and David Lebovitz

3 oz (90 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 rounded cup (150 g) flour

Preheat the oven to 410º F (210º C).

1. In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.

2. Place the bowl in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, until the mixture begins to bubble and just starts to brown.

3. Remove from the oven, being very careful not to burn yourself on the hot bowl. Stir the flour in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball.

4. Transfer the dough to a 9-in. (23 cm) tart mold with a removable bottom and, with the heel of your hand, press it evenly into the bottom and sides. If the dough is still hot you can wait until it cools to handle. Reserve a small bit of dough for later in case you need it for patching up any cracks.

5. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork (about ten times) to prevent the dough from puffing up, and bake the tart shell in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. You want the dough to be golden brown.

6. Remove from the oven and patch any cracks with the reserved dough if necessary. Let the shell cool before filling.

Chocolate Tart
Serves 8-10

1 1/4 c (250 g) sugar
6 tbsp (90 ml) warm coffee
4 oz (115 g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
pinch of salt
4 oz (115 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz (55 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1/4 c (35 g) flour
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tbsp dark rum)

1. Lower the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC).

2. Spread the sugar in an even layer in the bottom of a large, heavy-duty saucepan or Dutch oven. Cook the sugar over moderate heat, stirring occasionally with a heatproof utensil, until it begins to liquify. Take care, as caramel can splatter and burn.

3. Once the sugar is melted it will caramelize quickly. When it begins to smoke turn off the heat and stir in the coffee. (You may want to avert your face and be sure to wear oven mitts!) Then add the butter and salt, stir until melted, then stir in both chocolates until smooth.

4. Once the mixture has cooled just a bit, mix in the eggs, then add the flour. Stir in the vanilla extract or rum.

5. Pour the mixture into your pre-baked tart shell then bake for about 15 minutes, just until the filling starts to rise and crack at the edges but the center is still jiggly. Do not overbake.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing.

Fall officially began last Friday, and October begins today. So along with trading my floppy moccasins for leather boots, I’m trading my summer ice cream fetish for hot chocolate. During the warm months I have a thing for ice cream—it’s hard for me to walk by a yellow Van Leeuwen truck or any gelataria without sampling the goods. And then as soon as the weather turns cool all of a sudden I have no problem passing up a cone of mint chocolate chip or a cup of black sesame, say. But I just trade one habit for another.

Now I have to avoid the stretch of 18th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues to avoid City Bakery lest I indulge in a daily splurge of their famous liquid chocolate (yes it’s made from melted chocolate bars). Luckily I no longer work near either of Jacques Torres‘s locations in Dumbo or West SoHo so that settles that.

Well a hot chocolate habit can get pretty expensive—at nearly $5 a pop at Pain Quotidien (a stone’s throw from my office) and $3 at Pret (also within stone-throwing distance) it was time I got creative and got in the kitchen. I don’t generally buy milk anymore. I just didn’t have that many uses for it. Lately I rotate among three alternatives: rice, soy, and almond. I like them all for different reasons. Rice is great with cereal or on its own; soy is best as a substitution in recipes and sauces in place of milk; and almond is when you want something lighter.

So last week, on the first day of fall in fact, I found myself at home wanting hot chocolate but unwilling to venture out into the pouring rain to get some. I had almond milk in the fridge so started by warming up a cup in a small saucepan on the stove. Now all I needed was the chocolate and the sweetener, both of which could take multiple forms. I have Fox’s U-Bet syrup in the fridge for making classic egg creams but that seemed too cloying for the occasion. I had a bar of dark chocolate but was saving that to eat on its own. So instead I opted for the cocoa powder in my cupboard. As for adding sweetness, I passed up the agave, white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, and honey in favor of…you guessed it folks…Vermont Grade B maple syrup. You might recall my post back in the spring for Vermont iced coffee sweetened with the stuff.

I added less than a tablespoon but more than teaspoon of the cocoa powder to the almond milk heating in the saucepan, and a small spoonful of maple syrup. I heated it up for about 5 minutes until hot but not boiling then served in a big ‘ol mug. So there you have it folks: vegan hot chocolate. That was not my intention per se but it was delicious, chocolatey, and not too sweet at all, just the way I like it. It went down as smooth as ice cream.

Hot Chocolate
serves 1

1 c (8 oz) almond milk – could also use soy, rice, or cow
1/2 tbsp cocoa powder – can use more or less to taste
1/2-1 tbsp maple syrup – again, can adjust to taste
tiniest pinch of salt

Put the milk in a small saucepan and turn the heat on low. Add the cocoa powder and maple syrup, stir, and heat up for a few minutes until hot but not boiling. Serve on its own, with whipped cream, or a tiny pinch of cayenne to spice it up.

Now the photo up top is not in fact from a hot chocolate quest, but is from this morning’s field trip with a few new friends in my neighborhood. This is Bedford Hill Coffee Bar, on Franklin Ave. in Bed-Stuy, home of delicious americanos and pastries. And below, well that would have to be Dough now wouldn’t it? Just up the street from Bedford Hill, Dough makes delectable yeast donuts with wacky flavors like passionfruit with cacao nibs, dulce de leche with toasted almonds, and a bright pink hibiscus donut. Today I opted for passionfruit.

The blogosphere is well-stocked with food blogs. Mine is one of probably one million. I think one of the best is David Lebovitz’s Living the Sweet Life in Paris.

While many Parisians had taken off for August, Lebovitz kept on blogging, in part from San Francisco, where he was attending the 40th anniversary celebrations of Chez Panisse, where he was a cook and pastry chef from 1986 to 1999.

I haven’t been baking much this summer but these brownies on his blog caught my eye. They’re gluten-free, for one, and looked fudgy and amazing. (He must shoot with a Canon 7D and not an iPhone.) I don’t even really eat brownies anymore—I’m trying to eat less sugar and chocolate—but they were too darn pretty not to try. I figured I wouldn’t have too much trouble pawning them off on friends or my grandmother.

Instead of flour the recipe calls for corn starch and unsweetened cocoa powder which act as binders along with the eggs and provide a brownie-like consistency instead of just fudge. These brownies do get crumbly but are chocolately, dense, and moist. You need to mix these well and apparently that will achieve a less crumbly consistency. One of the keys here is to use the best quality ingredients you can find. Good cocoa powder for example, high-quality chocolate (upgrade from Baker’s, for instance), and good butter. And that’s basically all these brownies are. I used Valrhona cocoa powder, Ghirardelli 60% cocoa bars, and unsalted Kate’s Butter from Maine.

For a twist, I added a pinch of cayenne pepper and two pinches of Maldon sea salt. You could taste the heat just a little bit with each bite to make you wonder what was that flavor. I used a cup of toasted walnuts, but you could also use almonds or pecans.

Next time I make these I might try adding one more egg, to achieve just a little more cake-like consistency and less crumble; maple syrup instead of turbinado sugar (some of the crystals didn’t melt and integrate); cacao nibs for crunch, like Lebovitz does; and instead of lining my pan with wax paper, which just stuck like glue to the bottom of the brownies even though greased, I wouldn’t use any liner and just butter and flour the bottom of the glass pan well.

And the good news: you can serve these to your gluten-free friends! (But sadly, not to vegan friends because of the eggs.) They’ll be an almost universal crowd-pleaser.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes 9 brownies

6 tbsp (85 g) butter, salted or unsalted (if unsalted, add a pinch of salt)
8 oz (225 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 c (150 g) sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp (30 g) corn starch
optional: 1 c (135 g) nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
optional: pinch of cayenne

Grease an 8-inch (23 cm) square pan then lightly flour. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180C).

In a double boiler (or on very, very low heat) melt the butter and chocolate (and salt, if using) in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, then the eggs, one at a time.

Sift together the cocoa powder and corn starch in a bowl, stir, then add to the chocolate mixture. Beat the batter vigorously for at least one minute (no less!), until the batter is smooth and not grainy. Add the nuts, if using, and pour into your pan.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake. Let the brownies cool completely before cutting or transferring to a plate.

%d bloggers like this: