Posts Tagged chocolate

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints

These cookies did not survive for long after I took this photograph,

In case you missed it, yesterday the Washingtonian Web site featured ModernDomestic in their weekly “blogger beat” feature. The interview with reporter Emily Leaman was really fun to do – mostly because I got to do what I already do here: write about baking. Thanks for everyone’s feedback on the piece – your comments and kudos are very flattering. I’m touched.

However, I know what you’ve come here for, which isn’t to hear about my press coverage (well, except my parents, aka my biggest fans). And, really, I’d much rather be writing about the cookies I made for my friend Victoria’s going away party last Friday.

It was a bittersweet affair, since Victoria, a fellow choir member, was abandoning us for Boston. But it was also a party, and parties are generally fun, even if they celebrate departures. I decided that I wanted to make cookies, since I often overlook them in my current quest to make ever more complex and “impressive” desserts. Which is silly, because cookies are actually really hard to get right. The Washington Post just did an annual cookie feature and interviewed pastry chef Tiffany MacIssac on the complexities of cookies (check out my own interview with MacIssac here).

Maybe I don’t make cookies often because I, too, find them challenging. Take chocolate chip cookies. I can use the exact same recipe, and it will yield entirely different cookies – sometimes they’ll be thin and spread, and other times they’ll be chewy and thick.  Cookies are also prone to burning because they’re small and delicate – I’ve probably burnt more batches of cookies than all other baked goods combined. Plus it’s hard to make cookies pretty – my cookie dough is always rolled unevenly, or my drop cookies end up being all different sizes.

So yes, cookies are a veritable mine field of baking challenges. But, that being said, these salty chocolate thumbprints with chocolate ganache came out really well. Victoria’s party was well supplied with treats and food and I wasn’t sure they’d get eaten. But they were all gone by the time I left.

These cookies owe their magic to the salt, which brings out the chocolate and gives them an addictive salty-sweet quality. I adapted them from a Martha Stewart recipe, but decided to use my own ganache recipe for the filling. The ganache is fudgy and deeply chocolatey, and adds a rich, creamy note to the cookies.

My one note of caution is to not over bake the cookies – you want them to be soft and crumbly, and the centers should be fudgy. The soft cookies and rich ganache melts in your mouth, followed by hit of salt and sweet. Believe me, they’re a little unusual, but I find them completely addictive.

As I mentioned in the Washingtonian article, cookies make great holiday gifts, and any friend with a sweet tooth would be happy to receive a tin of these. Just take care – you may find yourself eating them all before you can package them away!

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints 2

Wouldn't you want to get these for Christmas? I know I would.

Recipe: Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints


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Pie Time: Chocolate Cream Pie

Chocolate Cream Pie 3

Nothing healthful about this little baby.

I’ve had very little cream pie in my life.

The pies of my childhood were mainly of the fruit variety – and when I say fruit I mean apples. My mother was cursed with children who were very picky eaters, and the only pie we would tolerate was the apple kind. On the whole, we are not a pie family.

But I wonder what would have happened if my mother had offered us a piece of the chocolate cream pie I made this weekend. Unlike apple pie, whose fruit filling has a veneer of healthfulness (at least, if you’re a kid), everything about this pie screams “dessert:” a chocolate crumb crust, filled with a silky chocolate pudding filling, and adorned with mounds of whipped cream and chocolate curls.

I was ambitious with this pie – I actually made my own chocolate wafer cookies from this Smitten Kitchen recipe, and then ground them into crumbs for the crumb crust. The wafers may have been more trouble than they were worth – about a third of them burnt, and, while they tasted fine, they lacked that intense, chocolatey, slightly salty flavor of Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers, which I usually use for a crumb crust. For those of you who want to try to make your own wafers, my one piece of advice is to freeze the dough log before you slice it into cookies – I chilled mine in the refrigerator for the recommended one hour, but the dough was still way too soft to slice cleanly.

I ended up making the crust slightly too thick, but it was still satisfyingly crunchy. It was the perfect foil to the creamy, chocolate pudding filling, which had a rich chocolate flavor without being too sweet. The pudding is thickened with cornstarch, giving it a silky, light texture. The whole thing is topped with a layer of whipped cream, which I spiced up with a little Grand Marnier and cinnamon.

Now, you’ll notice this pie looks a little, shall we say, un-pie like. That is because I made this pie in a tart tin, rather than a pie pan. This was not my intention, but I broke my pie pan in the process of making this pie – let’s just say that balancing a glass pan on top of my coffee maker is not the most secure situation.

So, technically, you could call this a tart. But I think you should still think of it as a pie. Its simple, unpretentious, messy soul is much more pie like.

And whatever you call it, it’s delicious. I took this to a pre-Thanksgiving party, where it was promptly devoured.

Chocolate cream pie 1

Many thanks to my taste testers!

Recipe: Chocolate Cream Pie

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Co Co Sala – Is it Worth A Second Trip?

Co Co Sala 8

Tiramisu shooters at Co Co Sala.

Given my various dessert-related obsessions that I’ve chronicled on this blog (custard, pound cake, shortbread, cupcakes), it was only fitting that I celebrated Modern Domestic’s one year anniversary at Co Co Sala, the stylish Penn Quarter restaurant that specializes in desserts. Elpis and Justice and I went there last Thursday after spending the week staring at the menu obsessively online and carefully considering what we would order.

The restaurant doesn’t only serve sugar – there are savory tapas-style “bites” on the menu, but Co Co Sala’s heart is its multi-course dessert tasting menus and elaborate cocktails. They also serve a variety of hot chocolates, as well as chocolates, which I wasn’t able to sample Thursday, but are certainly on my “to try” list.

Co Co Sala 5

The strawberry basil cocktail was lovely. I bet I could figure out how to make this myself.

Instead, Elpis and I stuck with the three course dessert tasting menus. She chose the “ciocco” Italian-inspired menu, while I got the “co co for grownups,” which reimagines classic American childhood desserts. I also got a drink – since what’s a celebration without a celebratory drink? I had the strawberry basil cocktail, which was nicely balanced and fruity without being too sweet, but a very poor pairing with my chosen menu.

Co Co Sala 2

A mini bostom cream dounut - a pastry perfection.

Like many tasting menus, Elpis and I both thought that our desserts were mixed experiences, filled with some lovely and less than lovely pastries. There were some really beautiful moments on my tasting menu – the mini Boston cream doughnut was soft and airy, the vanilla-flavored filling was creamy and flavorful, and the chocolate glaze was rich and chocolatey and the perfect complement.

Co Co Sala 6

My main dessert (from right to left): malted milk shooter, chocolate cupcake, peanut butter ice cream with chocolate sauce, and a dish of bananas foster.

The mini chocolate cupcake was a dream – fluffy cake crowned with a creamy chocolate buttercream, and topped with crispy little chocolate balls that added a burst of texture. And the strawberry cheese cake pop – frozen strawberry cheesecake covered in milk chocolate and rolled in pop rocks, was fruity and sweet and chocolatey and, well, my favorite thing I ate all night.

Co Co Sala 9

The strawberry cheese cake lollipop was the best thing I had all night.

But not everything was perfect. The bananas foster was too much sugar for a tasting menu – the bananas, sitting in a pool of caramel sauce, was so sweet that it threatened to overwhelm the entire meal. The cappuccino panna cotta was faintly flavored and, frankly, an unnecessary accompaniment to the Boston cream doughnut. And the mint chocolate chip cup – quite literally a chocolate cup filled with mint cream and topped with chocolate chips – was like eating a cup of toothpaste-flavored frosting.

Co Co Sala 10

Not a fan of the mint chocolate cup. Not a fan.

Elpis’ dessert had similar highs and lows. She loved her strawberry and classic tiramisu shooters – the strawberry, especially, was a wonderful reimagining of a classic tiramisu. And she loved the creamy, silky chocolate soup. But she was underwhelmed with the final course – the lemon (was it lemon?) flavored ricotta bite wasn’t to her or my liking, and the chocolate dipped amaretti was stale.

Co Co Sala 4

Chocolate soup.

A couple of problems with the service – the server brought me the wrong third course the first time round, I only got my cocktail with the second course – cemented my feeling that the experience wasn’t all that I had hoped it would be. Although, given that the tasting menus are so elaborate, how reasonable it is to expect that every tiny element will be perfect and to my taste?

I know I’ll be going back to Co Co Sala because I’ve heard wonderful things about their hot chocolate. But based on that night, I’m not in a hurry to go back for dessert. At the end of the day, I’ve been more satisfied with a great cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake, or a great bowl of frozen yogurt from Yogi Berry than I was with the multi-course dessert from Co Co Sala. Maybe, in my heart, I’m just a simple-hearted dessert girl.

Still, this was only one visit, so I’m curious if others have thoughts they want to share about Co Co Sala. Is the hot chocolate worth a second trip? Did we go there on an off night? Have other people had the tasting menus and liked every bite? Dish in the comments.

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Wheat Free Desserts, Part Two: Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

Wheat free cupcake

Flourless chocolate cupcakes

It’s hard for me to get excited about wheat-free baking, because I’m a flour snob. I know, I know, I don’t like to admit to my faults as much as the next person, but I am. I like to buy nice flours and then read about how the protein contents differ from brand to brand. I like to use old-school bread making methods that require elaborate starters, so that the flavor of the yeast will not mask the flavor of the flour. I have at least six different kinds of flour sitting in our kitchen as I type. I am a flour addict.

So it was with great difficulty that I averted my eyes and picked a wheat-free recipe for part two of the May Baking Project: flourless chocolate cupcakes. I used this Epicurious recipe for flourless chocolate cake, but baked them in muffin tins and topped them with sweetened whipped cream and a strawberry.

The result was about what I expected, given my past experiences with flourless chocolate cakes. The cakes were very, very rich, with an intense chocolate flavor that was almost too much for me. I like chocolate, but I’m actually more a fan of milk chocolate than dark chocolate (foodie sacrilege, I know. But what can I say? It’s my enormous sweet tooth). The cake, flavored with bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder, was too dark for me. The texture was dense and fudgy, but the cakes had a thick, tough crust on top, which I wasn’t a huge fan of.

The cupcakes were fine, they were serviceable, and they’ll do in a pinch if you need to whip up some treats for an unexpected gluten-intolerant house guest. But they gave me the feeling that I often have when eating wheat free baked goods – it was a shadow of what I really wanted.

Which brings me to one final request – to my wheat and gluten intolerant readers, do you have  a great wheat-free dessert recipe that you think I should try? I know that there are excellent ones out there, and I would love your help with ferreting out the best of the bunch. Leave your recipes and links in the comments.

Maybe, with your help, I can get over my flour snobbery after all.

Recipe: Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes

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April Custard Project, Take Two: Orange Chocolate Pots De Creme

Pot de creme

Orange Chocolate Pot De Creme.

After the cupcake deluge last week, I was done with sugar. Or, well, I was done with sugar for a couple of days. As Wonk the Plank will tell you, I have a huge sweet tooth, so this was an unusual occurrence in our household. But eating multiple cupcakes for days on end (how many I’m not even going to say), will force even the most avid sugar enthusiast tot take a break.

If you’re wondering why last week didn’t have a custard project entry – that’s why.

Thankfully, I rallied this weekend. Wonk’s mother was visiting, and I wanted our Sunday night dinner to end with a fabulous and decadent dessert – I can never pass up the opportunity to show off for company. So I served up the second entry in the April Custard Project: Orange Chocolate Pot De Crèmes.

Let me first say that we loved it – I flavored the custard with orange and cinnamon, which married well with the chocolate. But I also especially loved this dessert because it was so simple, and yet so satisfying.

The pot de crème is a classic French dessert – it’s a cream-based custard that is thickened with egg yolks and cooked in small custard cups (think of it as a crème brulee, but without the burnt sugar topping). The pot de crème embodies what I love about many French desserts – it’s a rich and deeply satisfying dessert that is deceptively simple. It can also be adapted to any taste or flavor.

It allows me to show off with relatively little effort.

Begin cooking these a day in advance, since the custard will need time to cool and set. The only part of the recipe that can be a little intimidating is that you must temper the egg mixture before adding it to the hot custard – otherwise, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs in your custard. “Tempering” sounds scary, but all you have to do it quickly add a small amount of hot custard to the yolks and stir vigorously, which cooks the eggs without scrambling them.

Also, you may not want to make the candied orange peel, but I promise you – it’s really not as difficult as it sounds. And it adds a lovely touch and visual interest to the final dish – well worth the small amount of effort it takes.

Recipe: Orange Chocolate Pot De Creme

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March Baking Project: Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Shortbread

Shortbread Fingers

These chocolate shortbread fingers changed my mind about shortbread.

Now I know that I started my monthly baking project not only as a way to get out of baking ruts, but also to challenge myself. But pound cake? Popovers? Do those really count as “challenging” baked goods? When I first embarked on the project I had visions of making laminated doughs and cream puffs, but, so far, my (admittedly poor) sense of time management has steered me towards dishes that I can make in an evening.

Still, I had fully intended that March was going to be different. March was going to be something really challenging – gougères, souffles, génoise. I envisioned myself getting the kitchen table covered in flour as I rolled out some elaborate puff pastry creation.

But then I had these cinnamon chocolate shortbread cookies and fell so deeply in love that I just had to make March all about shortbread.

Perhaps this baking project is actually appropriate, since I’ve been deeply puzzled about shortbread ever since I made Michelle Obama’s shortbread cookies. I had always though that shortbread was a crisp, hard, and dry butter cookie – like Pepperidge Farm’s shortbread cookies.

In fact, I had never really been very interested in making shortbread because I like a chewier cookie, which is why I’m a great fan of drop cookies like chocolate chip. But Michelle’s cookies were different – they had the deep butter flavor that I expect of a shortbread cookie, but they were also chewy and moist and delicious.

I made these excellent chocolate shortbread cookies for a Superheroes for Democracy (who are blogging once again!) party that we attended a couple of weeks ago. I found the recipe in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, which I have on loan from the library, and I really fell in love with the picture. But the taste is amazing – the deep chocolate flavor compliments the savory butter flavor, and I loved the contrasting texture of the sugar sprinkled on top. They were drier than Michelle’s cookies, but nothing like the hard, dry texture that I originally associated with shortbread. Instead, these were crumbly, fudgy, and just a little moist. The hint of cinnamon is the perfect accent to the chocolate. And the best part is that they were ready in about an hour! What’s better than that?

Chocolate Shortbread Fingers
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart

1 1/2 cups plus two tbs all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tbs dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar*
Granulated sugar (for sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit. Butter a 12 by 8 inch pan (note, I used a 13 by 9 inch pan and this worked fine) and line with parchment paper or foil.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.

Place butter and superfine sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy – three to four minutes (if you’re using a Kitchen Aid mixer, use the paddle attachment). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture. Beat until just combined.

Spread dough in pan, using a spatula or your fingers to even out the surface. Freeze dough until firm – approximately 15 minutes. Prick dough all over with the tines of a fork, and place in the oven. Bake 20 minutes. Dough should be just firm to the touch.

Place the dough (still in the pan) on a wire rack to cool. While it is still hot, cut dough into fingers, and sprinkle with granulated sugar. The dough should cool completely in the pan.

*Note: if you don’t have superfine sugar (and I bet you don’t), you can easily make your own. Just process regular sugar in a food processor or blender until powdery. Remember to measure the sugar after you process it, as the volume will change.

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When Mint Oreos Go To Heaven

Chocolate Mint Cookies

These are mint Oreos that died and went to heaven.

 I have a mint addiction.

Or, to be absolutely clear, I have a chocolate and mint addiction, which I developed after a youthful love affair with Junior Mints. But chocolate and mint is such a special combination that I like to save it for really special times of year: Girl Scout Cookie Season and Christmas. So this Christmas Eve it only seemed appropriate that I should try my hand at a chocolate-mint dessert, given that I wanted to make something for the various Christmas parties we were attending.

I decided to recreate one of the most perfect expressions of the chocolate-mint combo: the mint Oreo. I chose this Epicurious double-chocolate sandwich cookie recipe and added a hint of mint to the white-chocolate filling. The key, I found, was to add enough mint so that it perfumed the filling, but didn’t overwhelm the white chocolate.

The recipe is a little time consuming,but none of it is especially difficult. I decided to follow my own advice and use properly softened butter that I didn’t heat in the microwave. I also creamed the butter and sugar together for a full six minutes. At the end of the creaming stage it was entirely different than what I was used to; the mixture was extremely pale and extremely fluffy, as though it was filled with a spunky soul all its own.

I also took the recipe’s advice and froze the cookies before I baked them, which helped them keep their shape. You’ll see in the “comments” section of the recipe that many people found the dough difficult to work with, but I didn’t think it was all that bad. I let the dough sit out at room temperature for ten minutes before rolling it out, which helped quite a bit. The dough did have a tendency to crack when I first rolled it out, but I patched the cracks together with my fingers. And if the cracks wouldn’t disappear, I simply cut out my cookies around them, with no harm done.

The only problem I had is that the cookies puffed up quite a bit as they baked. I’m not sure if this meant I mishandled the dough, but when I make these again I’m going to score the dough lightly with the tines of a fork and see if that helps.

Appearances aside, these cookies were just lovely. I like to think of them as mint Oreos that died and went to heaven.

Chocolate-Mint Sandwich Cookies Recipe

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