filling the empty nest with food
“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali
I love a good quotation, and I especially appreciate the sardonic ones. Perhaps because I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly creative cook. When it comes to baking, I incline towards following recipes rather than venturing into the uncharted territory of creating my own. It might have to do with the knowledge that I’ll be the one eating the failures.
But I’ve recently been introduced to Shirley Corriher’s book Bakewise. Bakewise is an encyclopedia on the science of baking–or, for those of us non-scientists–a book to help you understand why a successful recipe works and what the heck causes those puzzling failures. It has amazing lessons that are inspiring me to step off the cliff of timid adherence to proven recipes and into the unknown realm of inventing my own, or at least into more adventurous adapting.
I’m going to have to take Shirley’s word for the science knowledge, since my last foray into the world of chemistry was back in high school where my grades alternated between A’s and F’s and I never really could understand where either of them came from. But maybe Chemistry just needed to be made relevant to me.
In a chapter on cookies (which, for you cookie lovers, is a delightful 60 pages long!), Shirley (she seems friendly enough that I could be on a first-name basis with her) explains how to successfully add cocoa to a cookie recipe. I’ve often wondered if my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe could be transformed into a chocolate one.
And it turns out that it can be. With rather delicious results to boot. The trick is to understand that cocoa acts like flour in a recipe, and so you replace some of the flour with cocoa. Since cocoa is a powder, a dry ingredient, your cookies will be dry if you merely add it. You could add melted chocolate, but that would upset the liquid to dry ingredients ratio (also important), and you’ll need to do some reading up on melted chocolate and its characteristics to make that work.
So, I’ve taken that now-famous Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from Jacques Torres published in 2008 in The New York Times and converted it into a cocoa cookie recipe–also replacing the chocolate chips with chopped Andes mints.
I can’t say I’ve created any masterpieces, but, then again, if I don’t have to fear perfection, (or a grade from my 11th grade Chemistry teacher) I can just say I’ve turned out some surprisingly addictive cookies with just the right combination of chewy-crunchiness and minty-chocolate taste. And leave it at that.
Catherine’s Cocoa Mint Cookies (adapted from Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe)
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 cup cocoa (I used Penzey’s Natural High Fat Cocoa)
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 cups chopped Andes mints
1. Sift flours, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chopped mints and incorporate them gently. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheets or line with parchment paper. Scoop by tablespoonsful onto baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.
Thanks to the Twisted Sifter for the quotation.