Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Baking 101 and Double Chocolate Cookies OH MY!

Happy post-Thanksgiving I-ate-way-too-much-and-am-mourning-the-loss-of-my-money-after-Black-Friday day!! I hope you all learned to cook something new, enjoyed family, and ate at least one thing green or otherwise marginally healthy! If you did, good for you. Treat yourself with some Double Chocolate Snow Cookies (recipe will follow). If you failed at the healthy thing, then you may as well just dig the hole deeper and eat this great dessert anyway!

I know, I know. This is a blog about health and nutrition.....why are there cookies and cakes littering the pages? Not that you're complaining, right? This may be a blog about being healthy, but I would argue that happiness coupled with a little sweetness once in a while is a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle. Dancing in the kitchen to Cher, Ani DiFranco, or White Snake while mixing a bowl of double chocolate batter and eating spoonfuls of powdered sugar (have you ever really tried that? It's impossible!) can also be a cathartic and meditative experience. Let that creativity out! Let out that squeaky off-pitch voice! Learn some basic baking skills, unearth your most embarrassing guilty pleasure music, lock your front door so your significant other won't walk in to the best opportunity for black mail ever, and get cookin'!

Baking Skills and Tips 101: Cookies
All right, so let's go over some of the basic ingredients in cookies, what they do (the chemistry of them), what they are about, and what kind is best for these desserts.

Flour: There are a bagillion (yes, I counted) types of flour. Chestnut flour, millet flour, spelt flour, bleached white flour, pastry flour, whole wheat flour, organic flour.....and many more. And they all have their uses. For cookies, whole wheat flour is healthiest yet it imparts a very strong taste to cookies that makes them, well, less than delicious. In my last recipe of Orange Blossom Water and Crystallized Ginger Cookies 
I used brown rice flour for its subtle nutty sweetness and health benefits. This kind of flour works well with heartier cookies like oatmeal, chocolate chip, espresso cookies, and so on. For chocolate-dough cookies I prefer to use organic unbleached all-purpose flour. This type should be your basic cookie flour unless otherwise specified for a specialized cookie. 

Sugar: There are so many sweeteners out there! Agave, maple syrup, Sucanat, stevia, crystallized sugar, powdered sugar; and, they all have their uses. Remember that baking is about science and balancing the equation of wet and dry ingredients. So, if you want to make a cookie with maple syrup as the sweetener, you'd have to balance that by adding more flour. If you want to make a crumbly cookie like shortbread, you'd use confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar) instead of regular sugar since regular sugar melts and turns into a binder in cookies. Say you make my Double Chocolate Snow Cookies and you are watching your cane sugar intake and want a healthier option. Lessen the amount of sugar the recipe calls for, add in more stevia, and replace the crystallized sugar with maple syrup, which has a lot of minerals and vitamins. Now that you have introduced more liquid into the mix, you will also need to add more dry ingredient to balance the equation. So, add some more flour or cocoa powder. It takes some experimenting to really know the ropes but that is ok. Enjoy, experiment, and soon you'll be able to create any combination of flavors and your own recipes just by understanding the chemistry behind baking. 

 Eggs: Like butter, eggs are a binder. If you have ever made meatloaf you know that it calls for eggs. In meatloaf, bread, and cookies, eggs are the glue that holds the product together. Eggs are comprised of two parts: the yolk and the white. The yolk is the fat and it makes cookies, brownies, cake, and bread denser, richer, and more moist. The whites are the protein and it makes desserts crunchier, crumbly, and fluffier. In most recipes, you need a balance of rich and fluffy, but, in some chocolate recipes it helps to add an extra egg yolk in for richness. If ever you have added too much flour to a recipe that has already called for eggs and you don't know what to do, you have two options to create a balanced product. You can add more eggs or more butter. Next time the flour bag tips over into you dough and you are crying on the floor, wondering what in heck you're going to do now that your cookies are ruined and your friends will be disappointed and will disown've got the knowledge to fix it up like it never happened! 

Salt: You're probably thinking yourself, "oh, yeah...........why IS salt in every cookie recipe???" You may have seen salt called for in every cookie recipe ever and you've always added it without thinking about it or you've completely ignored it. "Salt has no place in a cookie!!" you may be screaming at your computer screen now. I hate the be the bearer of bad news but....salt is a cookie's best of best friends. Think of a beautiful woman. Now think of her with knotted hair, eyebrows like Frida Kahlo , a T-shirt stained with last week's dinner. Now, we want to help accentuate this woman's beauty. Let's brush her hair, get her makeover, some clothes that show off her beautiful figure. That fashion stylist is salt. Well, at least in the case of cookies. Salt brings out the flavors of everything. It makes vanilla more vanilla. It brings out the chocolate-ness of chocolate. ALWAYS add salt to your desserts! A good, mineralized salt will bring out the flavors the best. I suggest Himalayan Pink Salt because it has the best flavor, has 83 minerals where regular table salt has 2, and has a slightly subtle sweetness that lends itself nicely to sweets. And, it isn't very expensive for what it's worth. 

Butter: This may be the best part of the cookie for some of you and for others, this may be the most difficult to work with. For all of you vegans out there, remember that butter is simply a saturated fat. Just replace it with another saturated fat! A saturated fat is a fat that remains solid at room temperature. The best option is Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil . It adds a light coconut flavor which you may or may not like but the other options are not very healthy and are usually hydrogenated vegetable oils. I use Organic Extra Virgin Coconut oil in my cooking, baking, frying, and even on my skin and hair every day. It's a great investment and provides many healthy essential fatty acids, helps regulate your thyroid, balance hormones, and can help increase metabolism with prudent daily use. Anyhow, for all you butter-lovers, butter is the fat that adds richness to cookies and, like eggs, binds the product. Added too much butter? Add more flour/dry sugar for balance. A little short on butter for the recipe? Add an egg or an egg and a yolk to replace a couple tablespoons of butter. And remember, buy local if possible and ALWAYS buy organic! Organic produces a better product, creates better texture, better flavor, is healthier for you, for the environment, and for those you love. A great investment for a few extra bucks. 
Some baking tips:  
  • In a recipe, mix all the wet ingredients in one bowl and all the dry ingredients in another bowl. That means salt, flour, cocoa powder, dry sugar, baking powder, baking soda together. Eggs, soft butter, vanilla extract, milk, water, and liquid sweetener mixed well in another bowl. Once the ingredients are mixed well in their own bowls, slowly incorporate the mixture into one bowl using the folding method. This means to be gentle with mixing. DO NOT knead, beat, or otherwise be aggressive to the dough. Treat it like a baby, or a mine! Or a 3,000 year-old piece of China worth millions of dollars. "Why?" You may be asking. Well, by being aggressive, kneading, or over-mixing the dough, you are forming gluten from the wheat flour and your result will be bread, not a cookie. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold layers of the dry and wet mix on top of each other until it ends up well-incorporated. There is a picture of what the batter should look like below. 
  • Pre-heat the oven! Not with the baking sheet in the oven!
  • Do not place cookies straight on the metal baking sheet; always use parchment on top of the sheet not only because it helps prevent the cookies from sticking but also because it prevents the burnt-bottom & raw middle syndrome cookies often get. 
  • Taste the batter before shaping the dough
  • Keep cookies about 1 inch apart
  • Check the cookies 5 minutes earlier than the earliest bake time. Better to be diligent than to end up with rock-hard burnt cookies
  • Take cookies out of oven a tad before they are exactly ready. They will continue to cook a little once you take them out of the oven and taking them out early prevents over-cooking.
  • Freeze extra cookies in a freezer bag. They'll last for an entire year if well-kept!
  • When melting chocolate, NEVER EVER NEVER melt the chocolate in a pot or pan on the stove! I hate to tell you but this is murder. Just plain murder. It may not seem like it but that chocolate is now useless, overcooked, and not even your dog will want it. Instead, use a process called TEMPERING. Put an inch of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Place a large metal bowl on top of the pot so that the bowl's sides rest on top of the pot. The steam from the boil will heat the chocolate perfectly. Stay by the chocolate, mixing it gently with a rubber spatula. Keep moving the chocolate around to make sure it all melts and that the chocolate on the bottom does not overheat. When all chocolate is just melted, take the bowl off heat immediately. Chocolate should be smooth, thick, shiny, and not too hot. Congratulations, you just tempered chocolate!
 Onto the good stuff:

Double Chocolate Snow Cookies!

Double Chocolate Snow Cookies
 Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Recipe makes 40 cookies or around 3 dozen.
This is a rich, double-chocolate cookie topped with powdered sugar to look like snow. The cookie is great for children and adults and can be made chewy and fudgy or crunchier, depending on how long you choose to cook them. Cook for 20-23 minutes for a crunchier cookie and about 15 minutes for a chewy little darling. These keep well in the freezer for a year. 

  • 1 cup of organic, unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup organic cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt
  • 8 oz semi-sweet organic chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil, softened, not melted
  • 2 cups organic sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus one additional egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Stevia extract to taste if you prefer sweeter cookies (I added 1/2 tsp stevia extract to mine)
-Put 1 inch of water to a boil in a pot. 
-Place a large metal bowl over the pot and pour chocolate chips into bowl, stirring mixture constantly to melt all pieces of chocolate but being careful not to overcook the chocolate. 
-Mix together melted chocolate, softened butter or coconut oil, vanilla extract, stevia extract, the 2 eggs and one extra yolk in a bowl. 
-Mix together salt, sugar, flour, baking soda, and cocoa flour. 
-Gently fold wet mixture into dry until well-incorporated. 
-Roll dough into balls about the size of a gold ball, flatten, and place on a parchment-covered baking sheet in rows with cookies one inch apart. 
-Cookies will fill approximately 2 baking sheets. 
-Place cookies in the ore-heated oven and cook for 15 minutes for chewy cookies and 20-23 minutes for crunchier cookies
-Dust with powdered sugar in a sieve when cookies are still warm to create a snowy look! 
-See recipe below for optional mint filling for Double Chocolate Snow Mint Sandwich Cookies

Recipe for Mint Frosting Filling for Double Chocolate Snow Cookies (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or coconut oil, softened
  • 1 cup packed confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 1 tsp creme de menthe or mint oil/essence/extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
-Mix all ingredients well. 
-Taste and add a bit of milk/water if mix is too dry
-Spread a thick layer on cookies and sandwich them together

Easy recipe......awesomely delicious results. Enjoy the pictures!!

Flour Power

Local, organic eggs from free-range chickens!

The Dry Mix bowl

Step 1 of Tempering Chocolate

Step 2 of Tempering Chocolate

Step 3 of Tempering Chocolate.....almost all melted

The melted chocolate mixed with all the other wet ingredients

The dough!

Cookies before baking

Snowing the cookies

My beautiful babies!


Thin crunch on the outside, moist on the inside.....perfecto!

Double Chocolate Mint Snow Sandwich Cookies.....that's a mouthful!

A sea of cookies!!!!



Anonymous said...

omg!!! the very best cookie ever! i've made chocolate cookies for years but this is the best recipe! and the directions and so thorough it is hard to screw it up.

thank you Samara!

South Dekota

Samara said...

Susan, You are very, very welcome! I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe! It is also the best chocolate cookie recipe I have found, and I have looked high and low. Enjoy and thank you!