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Procrastination (With Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

April 15th, 2013 by Cocolat

I do some of my best work when I supposed to be doing something else.

Right now I’m supposed to be reading/correcting galleys for the revised edition of Bittersweet, which will come out in October (provided that I finish reading/correcting). The new title is Seriously Bitter Sweet. I’ve begun to think of it (affectionately) as SERIOUS BS, but we’re not mentioning this to anyone. My deadline is looming.

Otherwise I’m supposed to be testing recipes for yet another new book. My deadline is looming on this as well.

I’m also supposed to be developing a fun recipe for the back of a healthy cereal package. That deadline seems to be staring at me too.

Why, then,  am I trying out a new cookie recipe with extra virgin olive oil?  You tell me.  

HAZELNUT AND OLIVE OIL STICKS

Extra virgin olive oil and a hint of pepper make these slender crunchy nut cookies extra good. The flavors are subtle but sophisticated— they grow on you. You’ll find yourself eating more of them than you expected to eat. Delicious andinteresting. Strawberries should taste good with them, or cup of oolong might be the perfect, but I am much too busy to try either of those. I have deadlines looming.

I shape the dough free form on a sheet of foil before chilling and slicing, but you can use a loaf pan to control the shape if that seems easier.

Makes about three dozen 4 to 5 -inch cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup (76 grams) raw hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cup (160 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (110 grams) sugar
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
  • 6 tablespoons (80 grams) extra virgin olive oil (a lovely evoo from California would be good)
  • 4 teaspoons cold water

Equipment:

  • Food processor
  • 1 or 2 baking sheets lined with parchment
  • 5 x 9=inch loaf pan, optional

Combine hazelnuts, flour, sugar, salt, and pepper in a food processor, and pulse until the hazelnuts are finely chopped. Drizzle in the olive oil. Pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  Add the water and pulse just until the mixture resembles damp crumbs—it should not be a smooth mass—but it should stick together when you press it. Pulse in a bit of extra water if necessary.

If using a loaf pan, line the bottom and sides with foil.  Dump the mixture into the pan and spread it evenly.  Press it very firmly, making a thin layer.  Or, dump the mixture onto a sheet of foil on a baking sheet and distribute it evenly over an area about 4 to 5 inches by 9 to 10 inches. Press it firmly, squaring up the edges, to make an even compact layer about 1/2 inch thick. Fold the foil over the dough and wrap it tightly. Refrigerate for 2 hours or over night.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.

Unwrap the dough and transfer it to a cutting board. Use a long sharp knife to cut the dough crosswise, into scant 3/8 inch slices.  Use the knife to transfer the slice and lay it onto the cookie sheet.  Repeat, placing slices 1 inch apart. Slices will be fragile and require the support of the knife in transit.

Bake until cookies are golden brown, 15-18 minutes (time depends on thickness of cookies). Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back half way through the baking time to ensure even baking.

Slide the parchment carefully onto a rack or set the pans themselves on a rack to cool. Cool cookies completely before stacking or storing. Cookies may be stored, airtight, for several days.

Bacon Meringues

March 29th, 2013 by Cocolat

I was getting tired of seeing and hearing about bacon in every recipe all day every day. The only answer was to try it myself.  These meringues really are good. You might want to cook the whole pound of bacon although the recipe calls for only 10 strips, because (who knows) you might need a snack…
One of my most esteemed tasters says “just pecans and bacon please, hold the chocolate”. I see her point, the pecans and bacon are superb with nothing else, but I also like the milk chocolate in there.  Have it your way. Let me know.

BACON PECAN MERINGUES WITH (or without) MILK CHOCOLATE
Something sweet and salty with nuts?  And chocolate?  How can this be wrong?
Makes 36-40 meringues
Ingredients:

Scant 2/3 cup (85 g) crumbled crispy cooked bacon*, cooled
Scant 2/3 cup (60 g) toasted pecans, chopped medium fine
3 ounces milk chocolate, cut in 1/3 inch squares (or ½ cup milk chocolate chips) (optional)
2/3 cup (133 grams) sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
*Thin cut bacon works best, you will need about 10 ounces or 10 strips, before cooking. It should be well cooked, using your favorite method. Once cool check to see if it is mostly crispy; if not, chop to the size of crumbles and re cook briefly in a dry frying pan to render a little more fat. Let cool.

Equipment:

Cookie sheets lined with parchment paper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven
Set aside 1/3 of the bacon for the topping.
Mix the remaining bacon with the pecans, chocolate, and two tablespoons of the sugar. Set aside.
Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean dry bowl. Beat at medium-high speed with a heavy-duty stand mixer (or high speed with a hand mixer) until the egg whites are creamy white (instead of translucent) and hold a soft shape when the beaters are lifted.  Continue to beat on medium to high speed, adding the remaining sugar a little at a time, taking 1 1/2 to 2 minutes in all, until the egg whites are very stiff and have a dull sheen. Use a large rubber spatula to fold in the bacon mixture, just until blended.

Drop generous tablespoons of meringue 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets.  Make sure all of the batter fits on the two sheets so all can be baked at once; if necessary make each cookie a little bigger. Sprinkle each meringue with a little pinch of reserved bacon. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.  Remove a test meringue and let it cool completely before taking a bite (meringues are never crisp when hot). If the test meringue is completely dry and crisp, turn off the oven and let the remaining meringues cool completely in the oven.  If the test meringue is soft or chewy or sticks to your teeth, bake for another 15 to 30 minutes before cooling in the oven.
To prevent cookies from becoming moist and sticky, put them in an airtight container as soon as they are cool.  Cookies keep for a few days at least.

More Meringue Madness

March 28th, 2013 by Cocolat

I tasted my first Meringue Glacé decades ago in Castelnaudary, that French town on the Canal du Midi, renowned for its Cassoulet.  I was so full of Cassoulet I should not have even glanced at the dessert menu, but I couldn’t resist the Meringue Glacé.  When it came, what was it anyway?  Plain-as-can-be meringues with plain vanilla ice cream and plain whipped cream (or maybe it was crème fraîche). But it was so good I remember it now, 40 years later.  I’m sure the Cassoulet was nice too, but I don’t recall a a thing about that part of the meal.
The simplest meringue with ice cream and whipped cream still entices me. But I can’t always stop there: a garnish of juicy berries and warm bittersweet chocolate sauce produces even more drama and contrast: hot with cold, creamy with crunchy, sweet with bittersweet. If you turn the meringue into Pavlova, you can also get chewy with gooey!  
I love that meringues—simple cookies or elements of a more complex dessert— are easy make and easy to play with. Over the years, I have tried all kinds of inclusions, treatments, embellishments, and flavors, from bananas to bacon (including bananas andbacon).  Some of my results are amazing (if I do say), others not so much.  
A few of the things I have added to meringues over the decades are:
Espresso powder:  very nice
Nuts, raw or toasted, chopped and/or ground: obviously great
Roasted salted nuts with or w/o chopped milk chocolate: terrific
Thai curry peanuts:not as good as I had hoped
Salt and pepper cashews: not as good as I had hoped
Cocoa power: nice enough
Cocoa nibs: good when lots are added otherwise they  taste bitter and feel gritty
Chopped chocolate:what’s not to love?
Candied citrus peels: dries out and become too hard to chew
Grated citrus peel: dries out and becomes too hard
Pulverized freeze dried fruit: banana (with or without pecans or coconut) was especially good, as was pineapple (with or without coconut) are especially good
Dried jamiaca blossoms (aka jamaica tea): still a work in progress
Amchur powder: interesting

Tahini: yummy
Peanut butter:fantastic, also almond butter, cashew butter etc.
Peanut butter and jam: good, but a little too sweet
Coconut: always great
Bacon with toasted pecans and milk chocolate:  Delish! Recipe to come. 
Organic powdered milk: extremely promising
Saffron: promising, not yet perfected
Chestnut flour: amazing
Carrot chips and/or wasabi peas: ok, I ate them up before I made the meringues-will try again
Many of these things ended up as recipes in books, others are yet to come. I have a long list of other things to try…including pulverized dried mushrooms. 

I hate to limit anything delicious to a specific audience.  I’m afraid that if I label any cookie or dessert “for Passover” or “Gluten Free” people who don’t know from Passover or do not suffer from gluten insensitivity will just turn the page. Meanwhile, even though I normally prefer all kinds of bitter and tart flavors, like super dark chocolate, expresso, pungent olive oil, sour pickles and so forth, I adore meringues and just can’t get enough of them. Go figure.

When you add flakes of coconut, chunks of bittersweet chocolate, salted almonds, and nuggets of creamy coconut white chocolate to melt-in-your-mouth meringues, every bite becomes a riot of creamy with crunchy and chewy, and sweet with salty. These cookies are crazy good (addictive really) just as they are, or you can make them into pretty individual desserts by piling on a little whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

CHUNKY CHOCOLATE COCONUT ALMOND MERINGUES

Makes 45-50 cookies.

Ingredients:

1 cup (145) roasted salted almonds, coarsely chopped

4 ounces (115 grams) 70% chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger), cut into chunks or 2/3 cup purchased chocolate chunks or chips

3/4 cup (30 grams) unsweetened flaked coconut (coconut chips)

2 ounces (60 grams) Coconut White Chocolate (Lindt), cut into 1/3-inch squares

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams) sugar

3 egg whites, at room temperature

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Equipment:

2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

For the topping, set aside and toss together 1/4 of the almonds, 1/4 of the dark chocolate, and 1/4 of the flaked coconut.

Mix the remaining almonds, chocolate, and coconut with the coconut white chocolate and 2 tablespoons of the sugar.  Set aside.

Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean dry bowl. Beat at medium-high speed with a heavy-duty stand mixer (or high speed with a hand mixer) until the egg whites are creamy white (instead of translucent) and hold a soft shape when the beaters are lifted.  Continue to beat on medium to high speed, adding the sugar a little at a time, taking 1 1/2 to 2 minutes in all, until the egg whites are very stiff and have a dull sheen. Use a large rubber spatula to fold in the mixture of nuts, coconut, both chocolates, and sugar, just until blended.

Drop generous tablespoons of meringue 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets.  Make sure all of the batter fits on the two sheets so all can be baked at once; if necessary make each cookie a little bigger. Sprinkle each meringue with a little pinch of reserved topping. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.  Remove a test meringue and let it cool completely before taking a bite (meringues are never crisp when hot). If the test meringue is completely dry and crisp, turn off the oven and let the remaining meringues cool completely in the oven.  If the test meringue is soft or chewy or sticks to your teeth, bake for another 15 to 30 minutes before cooling in the oven.

To prevent cookies from becoming moist and sticky, put them in an airtight container as soon as they are cool.  Cookies keep for at least 2 weeks.