Ethereal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pierre Hermé’s, that is. I know I have been missing from action for close to a year when I promised to bake more often after giving this space a total revamp. Thing is, I have been travelling quite a bit the past few months after finally getting over a furkid’s untimely and tragic departure (that rendered me quite incapable of daily functions for a couple of months). And you know how it works, the longer you are away from performing a certain task, the more the inertia builds up.

But now, there is a perfect opportunity for me to return to the kitchen for baking –  a niece was recently hospitalised for an ailment, and what better way to give her cheer than via a box of chocolate cookies? I mean, all children love chocolate cookies, right? Incidentally, the PH Pastries book that I ordered online several weeks ago finally arrived on the day I decided to bake something. What luck!

Recipe: PH’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 120g pecan/macadamia nuts
  • 225g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 240g Valrhona Guanaja chocolate
  • 150g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp fleur de sel de Guérande
  • 240g soft brown sugar
  • 75g egg (about 1.5 egg)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper or silpat and set aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Using a rolling pin, coarsely break the pecan or macadamia nuts into pieces. Chop the chocolate into pieces.
  5. Cut the butter into pieces and process it until creamy.
  6. Add in the fleur de sel and soft brown sugar. Cream until smooth.
  7. Incorporate the eggs and cream for about 3 minutes.
  8. Add in the sifted dry ingredients, coarsely choppted nuts and chocolate pieces. Beat for about 2 minutes.
  9. Divide dough into about 30g each. Shape the mounds of dough and arrange them on the baking sheets, leaving generous spaces between them. Bake for about 12 minutes.
  10. Remove baking sheet from oven. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Yield: 30 5-cm diameter cookies
[credits: Pierre Hermé PASTRIES]

This chocolate cookie recipe is rather unlike other chocolate cookie recipes I’d come across, or even baked. First of all, no cocoa powder was used at all. And then it uses soft brown sugar instead of the usual caster or granulated sugar. I’ve read several reviews on this particular recipe, and all were good. Hence, in spite of the fact that I am no fan of both chocolates and cookies, I decided to try baking some of these.

The cookies smelled great even before they were sent into the oven, I kid you not. Even the raw dough smelled different from the others I’ve baked. And while the first batch was happily baking away in the oven, my two furkids were going absolutely bersek in the living room just by inhaling the aroma.

I love Pierre Hermé first and foremost for his ethereal macarons, especially the Ispahan. But this chocolate cookie of his, is simply in a class of its own. I doubt I will bake chocolate cookies using any other recipe ever again.

I predict there may be questions on the ingredients used, so I shall address them here first. I used macadamia nuts, and followed the recipe closely because I happened to have all the ingredients at hand. You could use any other fine sea salt other than fleur de sel de Guérande, and any types of chocolates you could find at your local supermarket. The cookies will still turn out decent, but they will be different from what PH intended them to be. Just so you know.

If there are any changes I would like to make to the recipe, it’s the Guanaja used. Since Guanaja uses 70% of cocoa content, it is a little bitter to most people. I might tweak it a little and use Caraïbe (66%) instead.

Fudgy Chocolate Cake for a Father

It’s Father’s Day today but the family has decided ahead to defer our celebration till next week or so. It’s always a little tricky come June every year because little sis’ birthday will be a week before Father’s Day, and mine a week or so after. To complicate matters, mum’s birthday is 2 weeks after mine. If we abide strictly to celebrating every family event in June/July, we would be indulging every weekend and that’s very bad for our waistlines, not to mention our health. And in any case, the parents have a social event to attend this evening so we didn’t have to fret very long to arrive at our eventual decision.

A formal family celebration aside, this day cannot go by without a lesser form of acknowledgement (or my rather sensitive dad might feel under-appreciated). I started planning to bake several miniature cakes earlier this week, and consulted mum and little sis for ideas. Unfortunately, my family have very boring palate – we finally settled for the very safe choice of a chocolate cake. Well yes, the non-chocolate fancier has to bake yet another chocolate cake.

So there you have it, a two-layer chocolate fudge cake cut into miniatures with creamy chocolate fudge frosting slapped in between layers and at the top. And because this is for the dad who is the antithesis of ‘loud’, I placed some Varlhona crunchy pearls as the simple final touches. No elaborate creaming, no loud colours. Not the prettiest of cakes, but that’s not an issue since the dad eats almost anything. I most resemble him in this respect, apart from our inane need to tidy all wire/cable bundles.

A friend jokingly posted a status update on his Facebook account, exclaiming that today is a day to celebrate the failure of all fathers. I wondered why he feels so but this friend of ours has always been known to be a little wacky. And I somewhat disagree with him. I can’t speak for all dads, but my dad was ahead of his peers even when he was a brand new father. He believed that the responsbility of bringing up children falls on the shoulders of both parents, not just the mum. Needless to say, the dad was very involved during our growing up years. Thank you daddy.

Happy Father’s Day!

Chocolate Fancy

I’m not a big fan of chocolates – never was, and possibly never will be.  The irony is, I married someone who is one.  Whenever I feel like baking for him, his choice is invariably something to do with chocolates – chocolate cake, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate cookies etc.  And it really gets to me sometimes because while I don’t mind, I’d rather not waste calories on dessert I don’t fancy much.

This is with the exception of the chocolate cupcakes, which recipe is posted below.  The cupcakes are moist and soft, with a hint of milky-chocolate flavour in them.  I never get sick of eating them.  And they really taste the best fresh out of the oven, after a cooling time of about 10 minutes.  That texture and heavenly taste… I’m at a loss for words to describe.

Recipe: Chocolate Cupcakes with Marshmallows

Ingredients

  • 160g caster sugar
  • 70g all-purpose flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 100g milk
  • 50g vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g boiling water
  • some nutella (for frosting)
  • some mini marshmallows (for dressing)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Prepare 12 cupcake liners on 1 baking sheet.
  3. Sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl. Mix these together until evenly combined. Set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl or jug, whisk together the egg, milk, oil, and vanilla.
  5. Add the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and whisk by hand, taking care to scrape down the sides of the bowl until well-mixed. Add boiling water and whisk well to combine.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full with cake batter. As the consistency of the batter is very thin like thick liquid, it might be easier to pour the batter into the cupcake liners.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Let cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack before storing or frosting.

Yield: 12 regular-sized cupcakes
[credits: Tessa @ Handle the Heat]

In light of the recent spate of consecutive losses my family was faced with, the little sis requested to have a quiet birthday with no fanfare.  Well… not that my family likes having elaborate birthday celebrations, but I got what she meant.  So, no birthday cake for her.  Just some pretty cupcakes to commemorate the occasion.  Happy birthday, little sis!

I admit I’m as lazy as a home baker could get.  Visually it might have been a lot more pleasant to the eyes if I had used a white-coloured frosting or icing before placing the marshmallows on but I’m too lazy for that.  Conveniently I have a half-finished jar of nutella lying around in the kitchen, and there you have it, the fastest way to dress up a cupcake.  The fininshing touches of the mini marshmallows and ribbon, I have to give credit to another home baker (whose cupcakes were featured in the local newspapers some time ago) for the inspiration.

The little sis was very happy when she received her birthday cupcakes.  I hope she liked them even better after tasting them!

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