Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Dos of Chocolate

An overwhelming urge for a good homemade chocolate cookie prompted us to do a taste comparison. We had previously baked a spicy "Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookie" from the "Saveur 100" magazine; a special issue published once a year. The recipe came from issue number eighty-one; January-February 2005. We found the combination of chocolate, and pepper in a cookie phenomenal. The only other cookie that we had ever eaten that was peppery was a German spice cookie called pfeffernusse, a popular Christmas cookie. Another recipe for Mexican chocolate cookies appeared in "Cooks Illustrated" issue number seventy-seven; November, December 2005. We decided to bake both of them to see which one we liked the best (as they so often say in Cooks Illustrated).

Because the ratio of chocolate to flour is greater in the Saveur recipe, this cookie has a richer chocolate taste with a brownie like texture that bites back from the addition of cayenne and black pepper. A bite into this cookie is a real surprise. The other cookie from "Cooks Illustrated" has a lighter chocolate flavor because of its high ratio of flour to chocolate. It is has less cayenne, with a tasty addition of toasted almond and cinnamon. It also has the added bonus of being rolled in raw sugar before baking. We will let the cookie monster decide which one is better!

recipe adapted from
Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies
Saveur Magazine

Makes about four dozen
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup quality Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

    1) Whisk the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl and set aside. Put sugar, vanilla, and egg into a large bowl and beat with and electric mixer on high until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Add butter and continue to beat on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes more. Using your fingers, work flour mixture into butter mixture until dough is just combined.

    2) Divide dough in half and toll each half into a 9" log. Wrap each log in parchment paper,twisting ends tightly to make a uniform cylinder. Freeze dough logs for a least 8 hours and as long as overnight.

    3) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap dough and slice each log into rounds about 1/3" thick. Place rounds about 1/2 inch apart on parchment paper-lined cookiesheets. Bake cookies until slightly puffed and tiny cracks appear on the surface, about 8 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack and cool.

    left: slice the roll into 3/8 or so inch thick pieces.
    right: the cold butter will leave chunks like this.

    recipe adapted from
    Mexican Chocolate Butter Cookies
    Cooks Illustrated

    makes about 4 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies

  • 20 Tbs, (21/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    to room temperature (about 65 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 21/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached
    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 teaspoon gound cinnamon,
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

    1) In a medium skillet set over medium heat, toast sliced almonds, gound cinnamon, and cayenne until fragrant, about 3 minutes; set aside to cool. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process cooled mixture until very fine, about 15 seconds.

    1)Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt four tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and espresso powder; stir until mixture forms a smooth paste. Set aside to cool 15 to 20 minutes.

    2) Combine 16 tablespoons of butter, sugar and salt, and cooled cocoa mixture on high speed until well combined and fluffy about 1 minute, scraping sides of mixing bowl once or twice with a spatula. Add yolks and vanilla and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Add the toasted nut mixture to the flour. With mixer on slow, add the flour/nut mixture in three additions, waiting till each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Continue to mix until the mixture forms a cohesive ball, about 5 seconds. Divide dough into three pieces, and turn onto parchment paper. Roll each piece into a log 2 inches in diameter and about 12 inches long. Wrap into a neat cylinder. Chill until very cold at least 1 hour.

    3) Pour the sugar into a flat pan or dish. Unwrap the chilled dough and roll the dough in the sugar. Slice the logs into 1/4 inch thick pieces and place them 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet. Line the cookie sheets with parchment or a silpat.

    4) Bake until cookies show light resistance to touch 10 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time; if cookies begin to darken on the edges they have overbaked. Cool for 5 minutes, then using a spatula, transfer them to a rack and cool completely.

    left: Roll the dough into a 2 inch by 12 inch log. Roll in sugar.
    center: Slice the roll into 1/4 or so inch thick pieces.
    right: Chunks of ground almonds can be seen in the dough.
  • Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Sunday, February 19: Bread Baking Day

    Sunday's bread baking began Saturday night with a slow overnight ferment in the refrigerator. Today's recipes came from a new book titled "Artisan Baking" by Maggie Glezer. The loaves depicted include a Country French-Style Bread from page 82, and a Ciabatta from page 84. This is a new book for me and its recipes demand more attention to detail and preplanning than some of the others I use for reference. Although I am not against this as the first results are superb. I think some of the ideas here could merge with my intuitive style of baking. The author sometimes counters methods that other books endorse. I have yet to find the center of truth.

    Related Tags: , , , , ,

    The Republi-Cans do it Again!

    This is a contination of our political pantry. Please feel free to download, print and wrap a can for yourself from the above lable.

    We encourage new ideas and possibilities.

    Related Tags: , , , , , , ,

    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    The Kids are Fed up!

    We are proud Americans and believe this is a great nation that can do much good in the world, but we have seen an erosion in America's standing in the eyes of the world.This food label is our way of stating our dismay with the machinations of our current administration. The idea was founded in a radio talk show conversation between Jerry Springer and a caller. What I concluded from Jerry's response was that the political left and right can spout their views till eternity, but unless we stand together and recognize the waste of human, natural and political resources, the future of this great nation is in question. We at the Second Helping House try to imagine the reception we would have as a nation if the billions spent on a dubious war had been used instead on providing the world's underprivileged with a decent meal. For those of you new to the site, please check out our earlier posting from September titled "Citizen Food Bomb". Agree or disagree with our views, we encourage your response and welcome dialogue. Feel free to print a copy of this lable and apply it to a can for your own pantry. This political satire is copyrighted by The Second Helping House and not for commercial use.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    The Village of Cream Puffs

    Not all of our books are cookbooks. Occasionally we find digesting something other than a recipe entertains our world of culinary interests. At a local yard sale, we came upon a set of children's books published in 1956, called "My Book House: Story Time". It just so happened I opened the book to an illustration depicting "The Village of Liver and Onions" from a story written by Carl Sandburg in 1922. Being quite fond of this dish (Dieter speaking) I was compelled to read on. Needless to say I was charmed and quickly acquired the "Rootabaga Stories", a complete collection of children's stories created by Carl Sandburg for his daughters. The illustration above depicts the "Village of Liver and Onions", the girl is on a visit from "The Village of Cream Puffs". Now, am I correct in believing that most children love cream puffs and
    hate liver?

    With this literary connection to food I hope you don't think we've stretched the parameters of what a food blog is about; in this case, culinary anthropology if you will. In the "Rootabaga Stories" you will find wonderful tales about popcorn, and a potato faced blind man who has seen a lot in his day. Obviously these Midwestern foods were familiar to Carl Sandburg and his daughters.

    The illustrations in Rootabaga Stories are different than those in the "My Book House: Story Time."