Suzi's Blog

Bittersweet Decadence Cookies by Alice Medrich

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“Did you publish yet?” The publicist for Alice Medrich’s Seriously Bitter Sweet just emailed me. Of course I published. I remember this beautiful cookie that tasted just impeccably perfect.

I searched my blog history. Gee, that’s funny. Suzen and I made the cookie [okay, I watched and she made it because her trust level in me is a tad low. Again]. We loved the cookie and devoured them. I took great photos. I blogged it. I had to have blogged it.

And, it turns out I did not. It’s not early onset. I know that. I remember that. Mostly.

It’s not the drugs. We’ve been cutting back. But my caffeine intake is reduced. And, as you may have noticed, I’m trying to blog twice a day and I’m finding it just ever so slightly confusing. Two blogs a day often means you have twenty different things open on your desk and computer: Word files with recipes, Photoshop with photos, open books tagged with things made or to make or to somehow get Suzen to agree to make, books still stacked and waiting to be explored.

In summary, I’m confused. I’m very sorry. Particularly so because I really, really think these cookies are spectacular. Alice says that they are “ultra-chocolaty and richer than sin, slightly crunchy on the outside with a divinely soft center.” If you put “sin” and “divinely” in the same sentence and label the recipe “decadence,” you are either taking a great risk or have superb confidence.

This cookie is no-risk, complete satisfaction. By themselves, they are totally sumptuous. If you need a major jolt for the rest of day, one espresso and two of these will have you flying.

Alice has revised the recipe for this new book of hers, taking a very good recipe and elevating it to a definite “10.” Made in bowl sitting on top of a skillet of boiling water, there’s an old fashioned touch to making these. [Is that whisking some kind of penance?] But there is nothing old-fashioned about the rich sleekness of every sultry bite.

The proportions here, for cookie itself, are almost those of a classic brownie: little more egg, little less butter. The creativity here is the bushel of add ins: basically the dough serves to bind lots of nuts and chocolate chunks. The result is a complex, rewarding mouth feel.

Maybe, maybe just a little sinful, but what would life be with no decadence.

These cookies may be exceptional, but they also “typical” of the treats that await you in Seriously Bitter Sweet. Go, buy, bake.

Bittersweet Decadence Cookies

Yield: ~36 cookies [you’ll need more!]

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups walnuts or pecans, broken or chopped into large pieces
  • 6 ounces 54%-72% chocolate, chopped into chunks or store-bought chocolate chunks

Preparation:

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together thoroughly; set aside.

Place the 8 ounces of chocolate the butter in a large stainless steel bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir frequently just until melted and smooth. Removed the chocolate form the skillet and set it aside. Leave the heat on under the skillet.

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together thoroughly. Set the bowl in the skillet and stir until the mixture is lukewarm to the touch. Stir the egg mixture into the warm [not hot] chocolate. Stir in the flour mixture, then the nuts and the chocolate chunks.

Drop slightly rounded tablespoons of batter 1 1/2 inches apart onto the lined cookie sheets. Bake until the surface of the cookies looks dry and set but the center is still gooey, 12 to 14 minutes. Slide the cookies, still on the parchment, onto cookies racks, or set the pans on the racks. Let cool completely. Store in a tightly sealed container.

[Or, just eat them.]

Source: Seriously Bitter Sweet by Alice Medrich

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/2.8 for 1/30th second at ISO-3200

 

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Cookbook Review: European Cookies for Every Occasion by Krisztina Maksai

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What does Bruce Lee have to do with cookies? There is a new set of TV commercials, for some product I ignore, that says good things can come in small packages. Bruce was 135 pounds but flew thru the air, really flew. His stunts were not special effects, they were statements of his incredible power.

Most cookies in the country come from store shelves. A minority are baked at home. And of those, few, too few are exceptional. We bake cookies because, unlike other desserts, they are just supposed to be flat and simple and emit but one flavor note. Well, chocolate with maybe a walnut overtone.

All of which is wrong. If you had an old Eastern European bakery around when you were a kid, or if you happen to visit Eastern Europe, then you already know that complex, exceptional things can come in small packages. The cookies in European Cookies for Every Occasion are beautiful, layered, and cogently blend multiple flavors and textures. They are, in a word, exceptional.

Author Krisztina Maksai grew up in Romania, Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Fortunately for us, she also grew up with a sweet tooth and boundless curiosity. She loves to bake and considers baking an art form of the highest order. You can see her on YouTube and be rather amazed at how someone so young could master so much so quickly.

Her talent includes more than baking. She can write, organize, and demonstrate. European Cookies has over 200 photographs showing the stages needed for “cookie construction.” Traditionally, European cookies are more like small pastries. They are sweet, layered with textures, and yet often remarkably subtle. They are a delight to bite into, sampling each layer, each texture, each flavor. In this book, layers and textures and flavors represent traditional combinations that reflect generations of perfection.

I leafed through the book, deciding which recipes Suzen and I would try. Impossible to decide. This book, this is the first book, where Suzen and I are really going to make everything. Not all at once you understand, but I swear to you I want to try everything. So will you.

I’m about to post one of her recipes, Coffee Shots, her tribute to caffeine. A delicate almond dough is rolled out and cut with cookie cutters. Sandwich cookies are made by using a coffee flavored filling, then a different coffee-flavored frosting goes on top and on the very top you place a chocolate-covered coffee drop or espresso bean. It’s so, so good. And beautiful before you even bite.

Recognizing that European cookies are works of art that take more effort than your simple chocolate chip, European Cookies is divided into four parts:

  • Quick and Easy Cookies
  • Moderately Cookies
  • Moderately Difficult
  • Challenging Cookies

“Easy” here does mean pretty easy: you can do it, I promise you. And challenging is just that but so rewarding. Like her classic Chessboard Cookie with an alternating pattern of vanilla and chocolate squares, all wrapped in a chocolate frame. If you have ever seen this cookie before, you wanted it. If you ever tasted one, you want more. There are 12 color photos here to walk you thru the construction steps.

This book can only be described as brilliant. If you love cookies and you want your next cookie experience to be meaningful and perhaps long lasting, then this is the book you need.

We can only hope that author Krisztina Maksai is deep at work on her next work of art.