Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chocolate Chocolate White Chocolate Cookies

You have to love a recipe that has the word "chocolate" in the title three times. If you’re a chocolate fan like me, you know the importance of good quality chocolate. I’m not talking low-rent grocery store stuff. I’m talking break-the-bank, bust-the-budget high end chocolate – the kind that sounds European because it is European. And I don’t mean “European-style Hershey’s” either. When I was in culinary school, we had one class where we tasted different types of chocolate. Bliss. A class on chocolate tasting. Yeah, it’s as good as it sounds. That’s when I discovered that my favorite eating chocolate is Valrhona milk chocolate. I prefer milk chocolate anyway (see the chocolate chip blog post) and Valrhona is the epitome of creamy, good chocolate. There are other, expensive chocolates like Del Rey and Scharffenberger but I ended up liking Valrhona the best.

I would love to be able to say I’m a total chocolate snob and only ever eat the best. However, I’d rather not lie on my own blog. Truth of the matter is, for most of us, buying high end chocolate to eat is one thing and can occasionally be a great indulgence. Buying high end chocolate to bake with as much as I bake? I might as well take out a second mortgage on my house to be able to afford it. So I’ve learned to adjust my preferences to my paycheck and live within my means when it comes to buying baking ingredients. The trick is to gauge the importance chocolate plays in a recipe. If I’m making brownies, and chocolate is in equal or lesser proportions to sugar, butter, flour and the like, I settle for Hershey’s, Nestle's and Baker’s baking chocolate, especially if it’s unsweetened chocolate. If I’m making something like a flourless chocolate cake or chocolate cookies that have a high proportion of chocolate compared to the rest of the ingredients, I upscale it a bit with Lindt or Valrhona or even Ghirardelli. Fortunately you can find some good chocolate like Valrhona at Trader Joe’s for a somewhat reasonable price. I also scour the sale ads every week, ready to pounce when Lindt and comparable brands go on sale so I can stock up. The point is, buy the best quality chocolate you can afford. It’ll be worth it. This is another instance where I can give someone the same recipe I use but if I use Lindt and they use generic grocery store brand chocolate, their results are going to be different from mine. Quality chocolate will taste creamy and make you roll your eyes to the back of their sockets in ecstasy. Cheap chocolate will taste like chalk and crumble when you bite into it and leave a waxy aftertaste. A calorie is a calorie - which would you rather spend your daily total on?

I made the dough for these cookies this past weekend, shaped them into balls, put them in freezer bags, wrote their name, baking temp and baking time on the bag(s) and put them in my freezer. Best time saver in the world. I don’t have much time these days since that thing called a job gets in my way so I have to maximize my baking time. I make the dough on the weekends and I bake off the cookies during the week when I need them for something. I baked some off last night to bring into work this morning and I’m baking the rest tonight to bring to a coworker dinner tomorrow. Thereby also freeing up my freezer for this coming weekend’s baking efforts.

This recipe is from the Buttercup Bake Shop cookbook. The dough was pretty liquidy, not surprisingly because it has 4 eggs (most recipes only call for 2) and a large amount of melted chocolate. I had to chill the dough first to get it to firm up then shape it into balls, then freeze them, THEN put them in freezer bags and stow them in the freezer. The cookies turned out okay but while they didn’t spread too much, they did still spread and weren’t as thick as I normally prefer my cookies. I didn’t make the dough balls that big though so that could be partially why. It’s also because I don’t have a convection oven which tends to bake cookies fast enough to keep them thick and not spread so much. In any case, the taste was pretty good – a nice, basic chocolate cookie. It's pretty typical of other chocolate chocolate cookies I've made before so they don't really stand out to me.

My coworkers, who serve as willing guinea pigs, bless their hearts, seemed to like them. After baking for my various workplaces for years, I have my own gauge on how successful a recipe is. I get in around 8 am or earlier and will put the cookies out in the communal kitchen on my floor when I first arrive. How fast they disappear is a testament of how much people like them. Successes will usually be gone within an hour. If people really like them, I also get instant messages thanking me - these cookies rated 3 IMs and a personal thank you in the hallway this morning. So-so baked goods last a couple of hours. Failures might make it to lunchtime. And yes, I do have failures often enough. I bring them in anyway because I figure someone will eat them (and they do). If I consider something a total failure, I leave it on a different floor so they’re not associated with me. I have a reputation to protect after all.

Chocolate Chocolate White Chocolate Cookies

¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
2 cups vanilla (or white chocolate) chips

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla and espresso, and beat on high speed for about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and mix in the melted chocolates, stopping to scrape the bowl. Resume mixing on low speed and add the dry ingredients, mixing well. Stop the mixer and stir in the vanilla chips.
4. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for spreading. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

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