Friday, December 16, 2011

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

There are certain moments when everything seems possible, when fairy-tales come real, when one can see beyond the imaginary frontiers of the universe. Maybe being a daydreamer what I am makes it easy to believe and see.

I was having a coffee with a friend today and she said her son who is 4 still believes in Santa. I'm 29 and I do believe into the magic with all my heart. Does that make me too naïve? So what? I do believe in the Santa spirit and love the emotions that Christmas brings. The smell of cookies, mulled wine, all the family and friends gatherings. Isn't that what Christmas is all about. I'm not very fond of the commercial side of the holiday – all the shopping and gift giving that turns out quite useless most of the times.

When I was a child there were no fancy toys, there was no Santa. I don't even remember if we ever celebrated Christmas. This was a capitalistic holiday. All we celebrated was the New Year Eve. Of course, there were presents for the children, but the choice wasn't so great. I always received a doll, although never played with it.

But although without the Christmas fuss I was a happy child. This was the time when my mother would make us pancakes for breakfast and we would eat them while stirring vigorously some rye coffee with water in order to make it into foam. Then my father would pack up me and my sister into the sledge and would take us to kids' cinema. And later at night I would read fairy-tales to my sister.

One of my favourite fairy-tales was about a tailor in whose workshop there were little creatures springing to life during the night and helping him with his work. I've had countless sleepless nights stalking for little creatures.

Now they've come to our kitchen :)

Chocolate Coconut Cookies Recipe:
Makes around 60 cookies
Adapted from Mad About Maida 

For the Filling:
  • 85 gr cream cheese;
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract;
  • 60 gr granulated sugar;
  • 90 gr dessicated coconut;
  • 60 gr ground walnuts.
Whisk the cheese until creamy, then whisk in the vanilla extract and the sugar. Mix in the coconut and the walnuts.

Spread a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Using your hands shape the mixture into a long log, then wrap it into the prepared wrap. I formed the filling into two 35cm long logs but they were a little bit hard to handle, so the next time I would form it into several smaller logs. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.

For the Chocolate Dough:

  • 185 gr all purpose flour;
  • ½ tsp baking powder;
  • pinch of salt;
  • 100 gr confectionner's sugar;
  • 55 gr dark chocolate, melted;
  • 90 gr cold butter, cut into 1 cm pieces;
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract;
  • 1 egg.
Note: The original recipe suggests using a different method for the dough but I prefer my favourite “all goes to the food processor” method.

Place flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in the bowl of the food processor, equipped with the metal blade, and pulse to combine. Add in cold butter pieces and pulse a couple of times until crumbly. Add in egg, vanilla and melted chocolate and pulse just to form dough. Gather the dough to a ball, flatten it to a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Take out of the fridge. On a lightly floured counter top, roll out the dough, then cut it to strips the length of the filling logs. Place the filling log over the chocolate dough strips and roll up like sushi, besides sushi mat could be of help here. Wrap in plastic (reuse the plastic wrap from the filling!) and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a baking sheet with silpat. Cut the log into 1 cm slices. Press each slice between your palms to flatten it a bit– I didn't do this with the first batch that went into the oven since I expected the cookies to spread but they didn't and some pretty fat cookies came out of the oven, so do give them a little face-lift.

Bake cookies for 6-7 minute, although it depends of their size. Cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Candied Ginger – Milk Chocolate – Roasted Pineapple Tartlets

We made these tartlets some time ago(believe it or not but it was in April) and they were extremely delicious but I never found time to write down the recipe. Since I've promised myself to finish all the things initiated through the year before its end there was no more time for procrastinating.

The original recipe is from Larousse du Chocolat by Pierre Hermé, but we changed it a little bit by making the crust gluten free, and using the syrup from the candied ginger for roasting the pineapple.

Candied Ginger – Milk Chocolate – Roasted Pineapple Tartlets
Based on Pierre Hermé's Tart au chocolat au lait et à l'ananas rôti from Larousse du Chocolat

For the Crust:

Makes 6 8,5cm tartlets
  • 110 gr cold butter, cut in 1cm pieces;
  • 60 gr confectionners' sugar;
  • 3 egg yolks;
  • 60 gr tapioca flour;
  • 75 gr millet flour;
  • 45 gr rice flour;
  • 45 gr corn starch;
  • 20 gr almond meal;
  • pinch of salt.
Place all flours, almond meal, sugar and salt in a food processor, equipped with the metal blade, and pulse a couple of times to combine all the dry ingredients. Add in butter and pulse several more times until large crumbs form. Add in egg yolks and pulse just to combine. Gather the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Take the dough out of the fridge. On a lightly floured counter top, roll the dough out to 3mm and line 6 tartlet rings with it. Place the rings on a lined with silpat (or paper) baking sheet. Poke the bottom of the tartlets a few times with a fork. Refrigerate for half a hour.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Take the shells out of the fridge and prepare them for blind baking – place a piece of aluminium foil in each shell, then fill with dry baking beans. Bake tartlet shells for 10 minutes (till the edges just start to turn golden), then remove the dry beans and bake for further 10 to 15 minutes or until goden brown. Transfer the shells to a wire rack and let them cool.

For the Candied Ginger:
  • 150 gr fresh ginger, peeled;
  • 300 gr water;
  • 300 gr granulated sugar.
Cut ginger into thin slices. Place them in a heavy bottom sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for a minute. Discard the water (I like to drink it as a tea sweetened with some jaggery). Cover with fresh water and repeat the procedure for 2 more times. 3 times in total.

Combine water and sugar and bring to a boil. When sugar dissolves add in the drained ginger slices. Cook till the temperature reaches 106ºC. Remove from heat and let the ginger steep overnight in the sugar syrup before using it.

The next day the ginger slices are ready to be used. On the other hand the syrup will be used for roasting the pineapple into it.

Since the recipe makes more than needed you could keep the rest for future needs. Just strain the ginger slices and lay them on a wire rack – leave them for a day this way to let all the unnecessary syrup to drip off. Then roll them in granulated sugar, place them in a jar and keep them in the refrigerator for up to a year.

For the Roasted Pineapple:
  • 1 pineapple;
  • ginger sugar syrup (from the recipe above);
  • 1 vanilla pod;
  • 3 allspice berries;
  • 2 Tbsp rum.
Preheat the oven to 230ºC.

Pour the ginger sugar syrup in a gratin dish, add in allspice berries and rum. Cut vanilla pod lengthwise, scrape the seeds and add both seeds and pod to the syrup.

Trim off the top and the bottom of the pineapple, then peel it. Insert a bamboo skewer lengthwise in the center of the pineapple leaving both ends of the skewer hanging out, so you could easier rotate the pineapple during baking.

Place the pineapple into the dish with the syrup and bake for an hour – an hour and a quarter. During baking, use both ends of the skewer as handles to rotate the pineapple 4-5 times so the syrup soaks from all the sides.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Take out the skewer and prepare yourself for the messy part. Cut lengthwise the pineapple in quarters and remove the hard core. (We actually sliced the pineapple crosswise, then removed the core using a cutting ring). Cut each quarter in three, then slice crosswise and return slices into the syrup. At this point the pineapple should be ready to be used but ours looked a little bit under baked from inside so we baked it at 200ºC for further 20 minutes submerged in the syrup.

Keep pineapple slices in the fridge, submerged in the syrup till needed.

For the Milk Chocolate Ganache:
  • 180 gr milk chocolate (we used Cacao Barry's Ghana chocolate which contains 40,5% cocoa solids);
  • 150 gr butter, room temperature;
  • 110 ml whole milk;
  • 45 gr candied ginger, chopped to small pieces – 2-3mm.
Bring the milk to a boil, then pour it over the chocolate. Leave it for a minute, then stir until homogenous. Add in the butter and stir to combine, then mix in the chopped candied ginger.


Divide the ganache among the tartlet shells and refrigerate. Take out of the fridge an hour before serving.

Arrange the pineapple slices just before serving.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chocolate Walnut Muscovado Cookies

Almost every Sunday I bake cookies for Ivan to take to work for his tea pause. So I'm always in search for new cookie recipes. When I'm out of inspiration I stick to the classic shortbread cookie or just transform a recipe I've already done. These cookies fall under the latter case.

We used to make them often at the hotel during the pastry course this summer, since they served them with the coffee. The original recipe, beside of being multiplied by 10, uses hazelnuts – coarsely chopped. But since we are short on hazelnuts and overloaded with walnuts, my choice was obvious. Furthermore Ivan prefers the nuts to be ground, so I took it in consideration. As a consequence, not only the taste but the texture too happened to be very different. However, Ivan liked them, so did his colleagues.

Chocolate Walnut Muscovado Cookies Recipe:
Makes 60 – 70 cookies
  • 125 gr butter, soften;
  • 2 eggs;
  • 150 gr all purpose flour;
  • 5 gr baking powder;
  • 75 gr ground walnuts;
  • 85 gr dark chocolate, cut into small chunks;
  • pinch of salt;
  • 70 gr light muscovado sugar;
  • 60 gr granulated sugar.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line with silpat or paper 2 baking sheets. I've noticed my oven bakes cookies better if using only the middle rack, so I bake only 1 sheet at a time, but preparing 2 sheets I already have one cooled and ready for cookies to be piped on it.

Combine together the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, walnuts, chocolate, salt and the two types of sugar.

In a large bowl beat the butter until creamy and fluffy, then beat in eggs, one at a time. Then add in the dry ingredients and mix shortly just till combined. The idea is not to overwork the sugar in order not to melt it. Thus after baking the sugar grains will give a pleasant crunch to the cookies. Transfer to a piping bag equipped with plain tip and pipe the batter onto the baking sheets leaving some space between them. Bake for 6-7 minutes, until golden brown on the edges. The time depends according to the size of cookies. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Moelleux au Chocolat with Avocado Mousse

Merde!”- cursed the french salesgirl when my sister specified exactly which piece of moelleux au chocolat she'd like. Of course it was the biggest one. And knowing what goodness lurks in it wouldn't you ask for the biggest piece if you had such a choice. Me and my sister exchanged startled glances then we couldn't help but chuckle in bulgarian which startled the salesgirl. However, this incident didn't stop as from returning back to the same pâtisserie for a moelleux au chocolat indulgence. Although almost everywhere in Paris the moelleux au chocolat is worth trying. 

Ever since we've made this chocolate-avocado entremet my love for this combination grew stronger and stronger, just because the deep and heavy chocolate flavour pairs extremely well with the fresh grassy avocado taste, especially in this rich and decadent cake. 

Moelleux au Chocolat with Avocado Mousse Recipe:

For the Moelleux au Chocolat:
  • 140 gr dark chocolate 75% cocoa (I used Cacao Barry's Sao Tome, since it has a deep, earthy, volcanic flavour, but any dark chocolate will work out);
  • 100 gr butter,
  • 5 egg yolks;
  • 30 gr flour;
  • 4 egg whites;
  • 75 gr granulated sugar;
  • pinch of salt.
Preheat the oven to 160ºC.
Melt chocolate together with the butter.
In a bowl, beat egg yolks with a third of the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in flour, then still using your hand mixer, combine in the butter-chocolate mixture.
In another bowl beat egg whites, salt and the rest of the sugar till glossy stiff peaks. Using a spatula fold the meringue into the yolks-chocolate mixture. Pour the batter into a 19-20cm buttered ring laid onto lined with paper baking sheet. If using a baking pan – line with paper or butter and flour it generously.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Leave it to cool (I didn't transfer it onto a wire rack since it's a fragile cake especially while still warm). Refrigerate overnight or at least for 4 hours.

For the Avocado Mousse:

  • 1 ripe avocado;
  • 1 ½ Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice;
  • pinch of salt;
    25 gr sugar;
  • 10 gr water;
  • 80 ml heavy cream.
Heat sugar and water to dissolve the sugar, let it cool. Whip the cream to soft peaks. Puree the avocado, lemon juice, salt and sugar syrup. Fold in the whipped cream. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe it on top of the moelleux au chocolat.

Note: Make the avocado mousse just before serving in order to be freshly green. It keeps well its colour for a day, afterwords it shades off. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quince Frangipane Tartlets

Recently I found I'm extremely picky when it's about fruits mixed in desserts. There are certain fruits which I enjoy eating when raw but never or at least rarely when cooked. Like lemons, oranges, whatever citruses you name, if turned into curd – this is something I am definitely not fond of, but I do love them when candied and use lemon zest even more often than vanilla.

Normally I do like pears but the other day I made a pear-coconut tart that was so overpowered by the pears that for me it was a torture to eat it.

And bananas – they are not amongst my favourite fruits for baking but I found I adore them if mixed with jaggary, and there must always be rum (in bulk) – just because everything is better when boozy ;)

On the other hand apricots are my all times favourite fruit. And I think I just found another fruit love of mine – the quince – such a flavourful buttery deliciousness. Till past week my quince experience boiled down to quince jam (not made by me, I was only the eater). But then I saw quinces at the fruit and vegetable store below our apartment. And since it's rare to find them, I bought 3 kilos of them – I poached them, baked with them, made some quince paste (expect recipe soon)... And today I went for more. Unfortunately there were only 4 quinces left – now I'm looking at them as if they were “my precious”.

Quince Frangipane Tartlets
Makes: 10 tartlets 8,5cm in diameter

For the Crust:
  • 190 gr cake flour;
  • 70 gr confectionner's sugar;
  • 25 gr almond meal;
  • 2 gr salt;
  • 20 gr cocoa powder ( I used dutch-processed);
  • 110 gr cold butter;
  • 1 egg;
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract;
  • 10 gr rum.
In the bowl of your food processor equipped with the blade, place flour, sugar, salt, almond meal, cocoa powder and pulse a couple of time to combine all. Add in cold butter, cut into pieces and pulse several times to make it into small chunks. Add in egg, vanilla extract and rum and pulse several more times to combine. Actually I added rum because my egg wasn't very big.

Gather the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or even overnight.

Take the dough out of the fridge. On a lightly floured counter top, roll the dough out to 3mm and line 10 tartlet rings with it. Place the rings on a lined with silpat (or paper) baking sheet.

For the Frangipane:
Recipe, taken from Tartelette
  • 115 gr softened butter;
  • 115 gr honey;
  • 100 gr ground almonds;
  • 2 eggs;
  • 60 gr heavy cream;
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom.
Place the butter, honey, ground almonds, and the eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth (can also be done in a food processor). Add the cream and cardamom but stir in it instead of whisking not to emulsify it or it will rise while baking.

For the Quinces:
  • 2 quinces;
  • water.
Under running water, rub the quinces with your fingers or using a brush to remove the fuzz. Peel them, cut in 4 and remove the core. Cut each quarter crosswise into slices. Place slices in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cook till fork tender – about 15 minutes. Drain quinces from water and let them cool.

Assemble and bake:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Divide the frangipane among the tartlet rings, add a few quince slices on top and bake for around 25 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Note: I've put some home made apricot jam on top of half of the tartlets, just because I wanted to see if my two favourite fruits go on together. I think that the apricot flavour (maybe because it was more concentrated since it was from a jam) got over the quince, so I suggest you better leave it out.


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