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Archive for March, 2013

Mocha Chocolate Chips 017

It’s funny how just adding the word “mocha” transforms your expectations for chocolate chip cookies from a simple classic into a sophisticated complex treat. These cookies are loaded with bittersweet chocolate chunks and chopped apricots as well as instant espresso powder, tripling the unexpected flavors. This week I am hosting Tuesdays With Dorie – Baking With Julia, a group of bakers who are tackling the recipes from Baking With Julia and blogging about their experiences.

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The Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in Baking With Julia wasn’t contributed by one of the guest bakers. Rick Katz, a Boston pastry chef, was in charge of the prep kitchens during the shooting of the Baking With Julia television series. He was tasked with providing the various steps and stages of a recipe, so the shoot could continue (in Julia’s home kitchen) without the delays of waiting for doughs to rise or chill or bake. In his spare time he baked these cookies as a treat for the staff. You can read about it on Serious Eats.

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A pretty typical drop cookie recipe, this one calls for creaming butter with granulated and brown sugars, adding eggs, then vanilla, then stirring in dry ingredients and finally the chocolate and apricots. After reading some comments from bloggers who had baked the cookies and found them to spread a lot during baking, I added an extra 1/4 cup flour to the dry ingredients. While the introduction to the recipe recommends using the best chocolate you can, I used Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 72% dark chocolate, not the best, but perfectly fine for chocolate chip cookies in my experience.

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I liked these best fresh out of the oven, with the chocolate still gooey and the texture warm and chewy. They were very chocolatey, and the apricots offset and complimented the coffee and chocolate flavors. I baked a batch of two dozen cookies and refrigerated the remaining batter to bake later for warm-from-the-oven cookies.

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Here is the recipe for Mocha Chocolate Chips from pages 330-331 of Baking With Julia:

Mocha Chocolate Chips

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 to 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder (according to your taste)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 pound chocolate (bittersweet, milk, or white, or a combination), cut into larger-than-chocolate-chip-size chunks

1/2 pound plump, moist apricots, coarsely chopped (optional)

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Whisk the flour, coffee powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl to blend; set aside.

Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or work with a hand-held mixer) and beat on medium speed until the butter lightens in color. Add the granulated sugar and beat for about 30 seconds, just to blend. Add the brown sugar and beat for another 30 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. The mixture should be light and fluffy; if necessary, beat 1 more minute. Add the vanilla and beat until blended.

Turn the mixer speed down to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and clean the paddle and the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the chocolate chunks and the apricots, if you’re using them, and stir them with the spatula to distribute evenly.

Chilling the Dough: Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for several hours, or overnight, to firm.

Baking the Cookies: When you are ready to bake, position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two heavy-duty baking sheets with parchment paper. (If you do not have very heavy baking sheets, double up the pans – these cookies need heavy sheets so that their bottoms don’t burn.)

Using a heaping tablespoon of dough for each cookie, drop the dough onto the lined sheets, leaving at least 2 inches of space between each mound of dough so that the cookies have room to spread. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking period, until the center is just baked – they’ll still be soft to the touch. Use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Storing: Wrapped in plastic bags or in tins, the cookies will keep at room temperature for 2 days. They can be frozen for up to a month and should be thawed at room temperature.

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Croissants

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When I started baking through the recipes in Baking With Julia along with the Tuesdays With Dorie group of bloggers, I was looking forward to eventually tackling croissants. The croissant recipe was contributed and demonstrated by baker Esther McManus of the Le Bus bakeries in the Philadelphia area. I have a long-term relationship with Le Bus. As a graduate student in Philadelphia in the late 1970’s, I patronized Le Bus when it was housed in an actual bus and sold coffee and pastries near the U. of Penn. campus. I mostly remember the muffins. I stayed in the Philadelphia area after graduation and continued to visit Le Bus when they opened a storefront shop in the city, stopping for coffee and a chocolate croissant on my way to work. Years later it was rewarding to have Le Bus croissants’ quality confirmed when Julia Child selected them as the best.

My croissants however were not the best, mostly in the appearance department. They tasted great and were eaten quickly, but they were flattish and small. Although I cut the dough into triangles of the specified size, with a 3-4 inch base, the rolled triangles resulted in mini-croissants. That was actually okay, just not what I expected.

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I have a couple of possible explanations for the flatness. Instead of compressed fresh yeast, I used active dry yeast – 1/4 ounce for half the recipe, and maybe that was too little. I also made half the recipe – and during the multiple rollings and foldings, I reduced the size of the rolled out rectangles, but not by half. Maybe the resulting dough/butter layers were too thin?

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I got 20 mini-croissants from the 1/2 croissant dough recipe and made plain, almond, and chocolate versions. I used the almond filling recipe included and topped those with sliced almonds. For the chocolate croissants, I chopped some Green & Black’s dark chocolate and rolled it into the same crescent shape as the plain and almond croissants.

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If you want to try your hand at croissants, you can find the recipe on pages 185-186 of Baking With Julia or on Amanda’s blog, Girl + Food = Love.

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