Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Double Wides, a Cookie for Everything You're Craving

Some days, your muse speaks to you from a place deep, dark, and tucked away in the recesses of your subconscious.  Maybe it's a part of you you didn't even know existed, maybe it's the childhood self you denied, but it was lurking there, waiting for the opportune moment, say 3AM, to strike.  I want potato chips! It says. I want peanut butter! It demands. I want chocolate! It wails.

I WANT ALL THREE! It bellows.

It's okay, dark, twisted, childhood self; I'm on-board with this crazy, calorie-packed roller coaster of delight. After all, a life of moderation is a life un-lived.

Now we come to how we construct this dark carnival sideshow of a taste sensation. I feel like everyone needs more cookies in their life, and really,  it's hard to go wrong with a cookie. Portable, portion-controlled, joy-inducing, and they even give you a modicum of, at least perceived, restraint.

Therefore, our stage is to be set on a humble looking, light cookie.  First things first though, we begin with our filling.

Double Wides

The Filling
3/4 cup Smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup Dark or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Potato chips 

There really is nothing more satisfying than using most, if not all, of a jar of peanut butter in one go. Smack the 3/4 cup of peanut butter down in a large mixing bowl. In a separate heat-proof bowl, melt your chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second bursts. Zap for 30 seconds, mix, zap for another 30 seconds, and mix. Do this until they have melted. If it's largely melted, but you still see some chip forms, keep stirring. The residual heat in the mixture should be able to melt those last stubborn ones. 
Mix your melted chocolate into the peanut butter with your favorite spatula.
Here's where we add the potato chips. I chose a plain kettle style chip. What happens if you use jalapeno flavored chips? What happens indeed.  They'll break up as you stir them. If not, they'll definitely break up in the next step.
Once your filling is all mixed up, lay it out on a sheet of parchment paper, and cover it with another sheet of parchment paper. Roll that beast of a filling out until it's about 1/4 of an inch thick.

Make some room in your fridge, and park this there for about a half an hour. While you wait, let's get started on those cookies!

Do you remember those mass-marketed, lightly crisp, vaguely chocolatey (unless you got the double-stuffed, we have to cede that we at least remember them to be tasty) cookies from those-who-shall-not-directly-be-named? Only better, we'll call them Forlis (adapted from this awesome post)

'Forli' Cookie Foundation
 2 cups Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1-1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp Baking soda
 1-1/2 stick (12 Tablespoons) Earth Balance
3/4 cup Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons Coconut milk

Preheat your oven to 325° F/ 163° C
Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl and mix to incorporate. In the bowl of your stand mixer, or with some elbow grease, a fork, and some patience, cream your earth balance and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in your vanilla, lemon juice, and coconut milk and mix a bit more. Add in your dry ingredients slowly (low speed if using a mixer) a third at a time. If at any point, the mixer gives you trouble, use your hands instead. 
Portion your dough out in silver dollar sized flattened circles on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet, and bake for 15-18 minutes. Cool on a rack.

While these cool, it's time to make the ganache! There's a method to our madness, after all.

Simplistic Ganache

1/2 cup Chocolate Chips
3/4 cup Coconut milk (heated)
pinch of salt
1 or 2 tablespoons Bourbon  (If you're going to go, go big)

In a pyrex, or heat safe bowl, combine your chocolate chips, salt, and bourbon. Heat your coconut milk, and the microwave is fine for this,  and pour over the chips. Let it sit for a bit, and then stir. Stir like you've never stirred before. In the beginning, it will look messy and non-congruent, but keep going and it will become glossy and beautiful. Set this aside to cool; if you're as impatient as I am, put it in the freezer.

Now it's time for the assembly line. Fetch your filling and notice that it has become a solid mass. You can now cut it into circles to adorn your cookies.  I used a shot glass.

 Make absolutely sure your cookies are cool! Else all is for naught, and woe shall dog you with each day that passes, until happiness is no more. You didn't come this far for a slap-dash effort in the end.
Assemble them exactly like you think you would.

Also, see how bad I am at gauging sizes. It's fine, they wind up looking like little UFOs, and I'm at peace with that.

Once your ganache has cooled, coat the cookies in the velvety goodness.  In the end, your efforts will yield this beauteous monster.

Salty-sweet, chocolaty, and crispy bits dispersed throughout. Satisfying on all levels, and maybe just a little bit embarrassing to explain to your coworkers, who should really just be left in staggering awe.

Just don't forget- when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

We Nerded Out for Pi π Day on CraveLocal.com

Whether or not you're brave enough to admit it, deep in your heart, you know that March 14th isn't just any other day. It's Pi (π) day. A day based solely on the love of the mathematical constant representing the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Before Pi, March 14th was just another day, now, it's a reason to make pie. If you're that special combination of awesome that happens to recognize the significance of the day, or you're looking to impress a somewhat nerdy lover, it's time to break out your apron and horned rimmed glasses, we've got some work to do.

Though you may not have noticed it, or perhaps you're an unfortunate that doesn't have a local Trader Joe's, the chain has decided to up the ante on awesome. They've come out with a store brand of the somewhat elusive Biscoff, that also happens to remain vegan.


These cookies have a cinnamon-y depth, almost a rich caramel flavor that is absolutely begging to be pie crust. You see, as much as I may like to consume it, pie just doesn't flow as easily or as naturally as the other desserts. I've met the beast that is pie crust head on, battled a fortnight, and in the tired, bruised end, emerged the winner. Can I do it? Sure! Do I want to? How about a cookie crust? As a bonus, these make a killer base for coconut creme pie. Put down that rolling pin and trust me, I only want what's best.

Coconut Creme Pie
(because I haven't had one in about 14 years and that just ain't right)
1 cup cashews (soaked for at least 2 hours)
1 15 oz can of Coconut milk
1 cup Sugar
Scant tsp Salt
1/4 cup Bird's Custard Powder (You can sub cornstarch in a pinch)
2 tsp Vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Coconut Cream
1/4 cup of Coconut oil (broken into small pieces, not melted)
2 cups Unsweetened shredded coconut
1 Pack Speculoos cookies (or any cookie that strikes your fancy)
2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil or margarine (to mix with the crumbled cookies)

Preheat your oven to 375° F
Now to start off, there's no soy in this pie, but it's a custard. How do we work this wizardry? We soak some cashews! Abra-ca-soak!

This is a cup of cashews in enough water to cover them, for about two hours. You can test the readiness by taking one out and squeezing it. If it splits, crumbles, or yields in any way, you're ready.

In the meantime, take your entire pack of cookies for a spin in your food processor or blender. Combine these with your melted coconut oil or margarine, and press down into a greased 9" pie plate. Pop this in your oven for 10 minutes to set it.

Once your cashews are properly soaked, blend them with about 1/3 cup of water in a food processor or blender to form a loose puree, or cream. This will take a bit, you're looking for smoothness. If it's balling up on you, add a few more tablespoons of water.

In a large bowl, pour your coconut milk, custard powder (or cornstarch),  and whisk like nobody's business. If you're using the Bird's custard powder, you'll notice a delightful shade of pale orange, but just keep whisking until there are no lumps of dry powder.

As far as solid coconut oil goes, I have a gallon tub of the stuff. I'm very serious about my coconut oil. Because my vessel is so large, I can scrape what i need with a spoon to get curls of solid oil. For a mason jar of coconut oil, scoop out enough spoonfuls for the 1/3 of a cup, then break that mass down into chunks. The end goal is to evenly distribute the oil through the rest of the custard, like a colloidal suspension. Come on, it's Pi day, you need to geek it up a bit. Add the solid coconut oil, coconut creme, vanilla, and shredded coconut, and whisk like you mean it.
Once that's nicely combined, add in your cashew cream, and resume whisking.
Now that one arm is really strong, you're ready to go. Gently pour your custard into your pie crust. Don't just dump it in there like some brute.

Bake this wonderful representation of a mathematical constant for 35-40 minutes. When you pull it out, it shouldn't jiggle wildly, only slightly. Cool on a wire rack.

Now this is important, it smells wonderful, and it tastes pretty good warm from the oven, but leave it alone! This pie does beautifully chilled over night in the fridge. It sets the custard, allows it to relax, and for the flavors to develop. It really does a world of difference chilled overnight in both flavor and texture. I can't stress that enough. In fact, bake it the day before Pi (π)day, so you can spend the actual day languishing in the glory that is this pie.


If you recite it to the 5th decimal point by heart, you can reward yourself  with another slice!

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Subtle Green and Promises of Spring Proven False

St Patrick's day is nearly upon us, and some may find themselves shuddering at the thought of green bagels and green beer being pushed upon them at every turn.  Skip out of the passive voice and take control of your life! If you're not at peace with dumping who-knows-what into your food to achieve that lurid shade of green we've all come to know and love/dread around this time of year, but don't want to appear snobbish in the face of all the festivities; don't worry, there are alternatives.
How about Green Tea Cake with Blueberries; because that conniving, two-faced rodent of a groundhog said that it would be spring by now, and I'm going to bake a springtime cake as though it isn't snowing like the dickens outside.

While 'Culinary green tea' is a distinction that concerns me, and I'm left wondering what other grades of green tea lurk in the shadows,  it is readily available in Asian markets, as well as online super stores. It is indeed a powerful mojo, so make sure you have a steady hand while applying it.  This recipe will give you a subtle green hue, accentuated by the fresh blueberries, and very much a calling card of the spring you were promised so long ago.

Green Tea Cake with Blueberries
 1 and 1/2 cups Flour
1/2 cup Almond meal
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Tablespoon Baking powder
1 cup Sugar
1 and 1/4 cup (2.95 dl) Coconut milk
1/4 cup (.59 dl) melted Coconut oil (or canola/vegetable)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup Fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar to dust
Sliced almonds for garnish

Preheat your oven to 350° F/ 176° C and grease a 9" round pan.
In a large bowl, combine your coconut milk, oil, sugar, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine your flour, almond meal, matcha powder, salt, and baking powder and mix until well incorporated.
Add the dry to the wet in batches, mixing just enough to incorporate. Once the two are combined into a batter, toss in your blueberries and  gently fold in.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Once the cake has cooled, 15 minutes in the pan, then completely on a rack, decorate as you will. I dusted mine daintily with powdered sugar and sprinkled with sliced almonds before I devoured it.

The end result is light and fluffy, the flavors grassy, with a well rounded sweetness. Green enough to happily join in the festivities, but not so green that you  hate yourself in the morning.