Friday, January 13, 2006

Chocolate Obsession

Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage's book Chocolate Obsession came out last year. I looked at it a few times, longingly, but since I rarely work with chocolate in the form of bonbons, I found it hard to justify the $50 pricetag. Instead, I borrowed this book from a friend, sort of without asking... (What can I say? She forgot it at work over the weekend! I thought she wouldn't mind if I took it home for a day if I brought it back with some samples of its recipes. Sorry, C!) Thank God I did. You'll see why in a minute.

The book is divided into a few sections: history, dipped/molded chocolates, snacks, barks, drinks, sauces, and ice creams. The largest section is the one on dipped/molded chocolates, but the snacks section is also pretty substantial. I skimmed the first 2 sections, pausing only to look at a hilariously disgusting example of what happens if you don't emulsify a ganche properly. Yuck. I kept flipping until I reached the Triple Chocolate Cookies. Sounds good. "Roll dough into a log and keep in the fridge." "Or freezer," I added. Perfect. I love logs of cookie dough in my freezer, ready for unexpected guests or sugar attacks. Apparently, I have a real weakness for chocolate ones.

triple chocolate cookie

I whipped up a batch of these and let them firm up in the fridge. I cut them, baked them, and let them cool. I tasted... Delicious. This is exactly what you want in a chocolate cookie. Moist, rich, dark, with a hint of salt. I guarantee you will love them. And for our vegan readers out there (Hi, Nicole!), the only animal products in them are butter and milk chocolate, both of which are easy to substitute.

triple chocolate cookies
makes 48 cookies

7 oz. all purpose flour
1 1/2 oz. cocoa powder *
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6 oz. unsalted butter, at room temp.
3 1/2 oz. sugar
4 1/2 oz. dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split horizontally, seeds scraped ** (opt.)
1/2 tsp. fleur de sel
3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
3 oz. milk chocolate, chopped

Mix the flour, cocoa, and baking powder together. Set aside.

Beat the butter until it is smooth, add both the sugars and vanilla extract and seeds, if using. Add salt. Beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in three shots. Mix until dough is crumbly. Add chopped chocolate and mix. Knead dough a bit to bring it together. Roll into a long log, or two shorter ones, and chill 3 hours, well wrapped.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Cut log into 1/2" slices and place them on the sheet 1 1/2" apart. Bake for 14 min. Let cool on sheet. Serve.

* I have always used Valrhona cocoa powder until yesterday when I went to buy some (250g for $10.99) and noticed a bag of Barry's Extra Brute cocoa (1 kg for $13.99) sitting beside it. I couldn't justify the price difference, so I went for quantity. Though I love Valrhona's cocoa--it's silky even by itself--until I marry an investment banker, it's Barry for me. These cookies turned out amazing all the same.

** Fresh vanilla bean is fantastic, of course, but it's also expensive. It'd be nice if we all had a surplus of vanilla kicking around that we could throw into whatever we wanted, including super dark triple chocolate cookies, but I'm sure that's not the reality. The recipe actually calls for Tahitian vanilla, but at $7 each, I have never ever had one in my house. I saw this and thought, "Is anyone really going to taste 1/2 a Tahitian vanilla bean in these cookies?" My answer was "probably not," so I added the "optional" note.

The next thing that caught my eye was the Cocoa Nib Ice Cream with Caramelized Cocoa Nibs. I happened to have some nibs left over from making preserves with them. Actually, I had all the ingredients at hand. With nothing to stop me, I ventured forth.

Boris and his bowl of cocoa nib ice cream

caramelized cocoa nibs

1 1/2 c. cocoa nibs
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. butter

Have a piece of parchment or a silicone mat ready for the nibs.

Mix the nibs and sugar in a saucepan over high heat and stir constantly. Cook until almost no sugar crystals remain unmelted, then remove from heat and add the butter. Pour out nibs onto paper or mat. Let cool. Store covered at room temperature. Makes about 1 1/2 c.

caramelized cocoa nib ice cream [Boris-approved]
makes 1 quart

1 2/3 c. whole milk
1/2 c. + 1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. + 3 Tbsp. cocoa nibs, "raw"
1/2 vanilla bean, split horizontally
5 large egg yolks
3/3 c. + 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
3/4 c. caramelized cocoa nibs (from above)

Stir the milk, 1/2 c. sugar, and "raw" cocoa nibs together in a saucepan. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the milk, adding the bean as well. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit 30 min.

Strain the milk into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Beat the yolks and the remaining 1/3 c. sugar with a whisk until thick and pale. Pour the hot milk into the yolks, whisking steadily. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat until it thickens. Stir! Strain into a bowl and stir in the cream. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Churn mixture in an ice cream maker, and stir in the caramelized nibs at the end by hand. Mmm.

All in all, the book is a good one, especially if you have no other books on chocolate and are interested in making bonbons at home, although I found the tone of the book to be a bit annoying at times. Michael is constantly referred to in the third person, even though he is listed as one of the authors. ("Burnt caramel, Michael's signature flavor..." See what I mean?) Otherwise, it's a great-looking book by one of America's great chocolatiers (I should know, I spent some time at his Ferry Terminal shop in San Francisco last summer).



Anonymous said...

Paris, 2:30 in the morning... this post is pure torture... I have such a craving for chocolate... can you email me a cookie? Right now?
Happy New Year to you both,

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. These cookies look good and what a perfect day, today, to cook some of them.

While I am here, can you reccomend a place in montreal where I can buy various chocolate related stuff (like praline, praline "en grain", Cocoa butter, ... and even your valrhona cacoa powder?)

I live in Outremont.



michelle said...

Hermine--I promise to make you some of these when you get back into town...

Sylvain--I hope you like the cookies.
About the cocoa powder, I get mine at Gourmet Laurier, on Laurier at Hutchison. They also have praline. I don't know of anywhere to get cocoa butter or cocoa nibs...You might have to ask your local pastry shop to sell you some. Good luck.


kelli ann said...

oh. my. god.

i can practically smell them baking in my oven. yum!

Ivonne said...

First of all, you have a wonderful blog!

Secondly, I too questioned whether I should buy "Chocolate Obsession". I had the chance to shop at Recchiuti's store last summer in San Francisco but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to prepare the recipes.

Your post has changed my mind! I have to have this book.

Congratulations on two beautiful chocolate recipes!!!