Sunday, August 30, 2015

Milk Chocolate Fudge Hazelnut Cookies


The most unappealing thing about getting older is worry.

Not wrinkles, not weight gain, not balding or losing control of your bowels.... it's worry.

It's the one important thing that people neglect to mention. As we grow and age we become more aware and more wise (in some cases), but this awareness makes me itch sometimes. Knowing too much can be a curse.

Children are ignorant and free - it is beautiful. But money, work and all sorts of responsibility makes us so serious and contemplative and full of stress. If someone finds the magic equation for a balance of child-like freedom with worry-free addulthood, sign me up for those math classes!


For now I have baking and cookies to make everything just fine.

Chocolate and hazelnut is almost as popular on this blog as chocolate and peanut butter. These cookies are super thick and super fudgy, the way I like most cookies.


This recipe offers a double dose of all the good stuff. Melted milk chocolate follows the lightly creamed butter and sugar, and three tablespoons of cocoa powder bump up the chocolate flavour. Milk chocolate is wonderful with hazelnuts thanks to the creamy dairy notes that accompany it, but the added earthyness and bitterness of cocoa is necessary to balance its sweetness. These milk solids also add body and structure to help with the thick and fudgy business.

Top Tip: for soft, fudgy cookies don't cream the butter and sugar to oblivion - it should be well blended but still look a tad grainy. For crisp cookies, cream and cream away.


There's also twice the nuttiness: ground hazelnuts (hazelnut meal) mixed right into the dough with the flour and other dry stuff as well as whole roasted hazelnuts for mucho crunch.

Please roast or toast the nuts. Pleeeeease! They're not even worth putting in if they aren't toasty in some way or another. See, this is where worry sets in... I stress about you being deprived of Maillard Browning reaction flavours... it makes me crazy. I'm getting old and weird like that. It only takes about 8 minutes in a moderate oven, or over a medium-low flame in a dry frying pan. Easy. Worth it.

xo cookie dough


Milk Chocolate Fudge Hazelnut Cookies
Makes 12-14 cookies

6 tbsp (85g) unsalted butter
2/3 cup (145g) packed brown sugar
70g/2.5 oz milk chocolate, melted and cooled
1 large egg
¼ tsp salt
1 cup (142g) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp (18g) cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp (20g) ground hazelnuts
½ cup whole roasted hazelnuts, chopped

Cream butter and brown sugar until smooth but still grainy – no need for light and fluffy here. Beat in melted milk chocolate. Add egg and salt and beat until well combined.

Place flour in a separate bowl and then sift in cocoa and baking soda. Whisk to blend evenly and then fold into the butter mixture with the ground hazelnuts. Fold in roasted hazelnuts. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop about 2 tablespoons of dough onto baking tray, spacing them 2-3 inches apart. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until dry-looking but not crisp (they should still be a bit soft in the center). Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for a minute on the pan before transferring individually to the rack to cool completely. 
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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Light & Luscious Lemon Cake


I'll come off my chocolate horse for a moment and deliver a recipe completely un-chocolatey. That's against the grain on Scientifically Sweet, but sometimes necessary. 

I love this cake. It has zero chocolate in it, but still... I love this cake!

There's nothing more appropriate for a Summer dessert than lemon and berries. This cake is light on the palate and light literally. It is so fluffy and soft that it would easily go unnoticed if one ate the entire thing.
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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Easiest Ever Sour Cherry Fudge Brownies


Sometimes you just really need a freakin' brownie and there's nothing else that will suffice.

A craving for brownies is something I am all too familiar with. It's a desire for more than just something sweet. It is more than just a bite of chocolate. Brownies offer an entire sensorial experience for the chocolate lover.

When I crave brownies, it means I want creamy, chewy, fudgy, sweet, chocolatey, caramely and a bit of salty.

It also means I want them now!


No fret. These are easy as! And they come with the whole package - smooth and creamy, fudgy and salty sweet. Dried sour cherries add tang and another element of chew.

Once you've got the chocolate and butter melted all together, you can go in with the rest of the ingredients. That's all.


I used both dark chocolate and cocoa here. Why not just choose one mode of chocolate? Because I'm very indecisive,  and because of Science.

Dark chocolate with its cocoa butter content gives chewiness since it is solid at room temperature. On the other hand, cocoa powder supplemented with butter adds softness and smoothness for that creamy texture since butter is soft at room temperature.


Don't let a craving get the best of you. Don't let time be your enemy. This recipe is your secret weapon. Brownies forevermore. 

xo
Christina


Easiest-Ever Sour Cherry Fudge Brownies
Makes 16 squares

7 tbsp (100 g) unsalted butter, melted
3 oz/85 g dark chocolate (min. 60% cocoa)
2 large eggs
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/3 cup (28 g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
½ tsp vanilla extract
heaped ¼ tsp salt
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (80 g) all purpose flour
½ cup dried tart cherries, plus extra for topping

Preheat oven to 350°F and line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving 2-inch overhang at each end.

Combine butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan with simmering water and stir until melted and smooth. Add eggs, sugar, cocoa, vanilla and salt and whisk vigorously until smooth. Sprinkle over flour and fold it in until combined.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Raspberry Sachertorte


This is one of those things that seems so challenging but is actually very simple. Most sophisticated things in life are very basic when you really think about it. Like red wine, caviar and mustaches. It's just grapes, eggs and hair.

This classic Viennese cake can be found behind glass cabinets in pastry shops all around Europe. It is nothing more than a nut-based chocolate sponge sandwiching a layer of fruit jam and glazed with chocolate.

Tradition calls for apricot jam but I have used raspberry jam as I feel the combo of raspberry in chocolate is a sure winner.

The cake base is a cross between a butter cake and a sponge cake. It starts off with creaming butter and sugar until really light and pale, but then only the egg yolks are beaten in before beaten egg whites are folded into the mixture. These whipped egg whites are the only leavening for this cake so take care at this stage. The result is a moist and seemingly dense cake with a surprisingly light texture.
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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Boozey Truffled Frappuccino Cupcakes


You will never drink more Baileys in your life until you have to move. True story.

Moving between countries means a lot of things. It means paperwork, lots of phone calls, trips too the post office, garbage bags (!), stresssss, selling stuff and sleeping on the floor.

The not so bad part about moving is eating all your food. This could be a bad thing depending on how you look at it (like being forced into weird food combinations - limes, cheese and ice cream anyone?).

I think it is exciting, and most importantly it is a chance to empty out the bar! I love Baileys, and my love for it was tested after having to drink two bottles in only a few days. I drank a lot of it. Plus I had a surplus of fresh cream and so I made several batches of ice cream. Let's just say my gastrointestinal strength was also tested.
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Chocolate Matcha Sable Cookies


I'm eating my way through Japan and really testing my appreciation of the utmost subtleties of flavour.

Japanese cuisine can almost be likened to Italian cuisine in the way of its simplicity and use of few high quality ingredients. They do have cinnamon and clove-infused curries that pack a punch, and then there's all different kinds of miso that tackle your taste buds at every angle of salty and sour. But, the art of sushi is defined by the texture and perfectly balanced subtle flavours of the rice almost more than the freshness of the fish.

Eating soba noodles is best done cold in order to prolong the enjoyment of the soft and slightly chewy texture of the noodles and mild tang of buckwheat. It is traditional to eat plain cold soba with nothing more than some dashi or light soy mixed with green onions and a touch of wasabi. You dip the noodles in - do not pour it on top - that way you control how much you need.

Probably my most favourite Japanese ingredient is Matcha. Matcha is a special grade of green tea of which the leaves are ground to a very fine powder so that in can be blended into a whole heap of things. You can find Matcha anything here in Kyoto and I am in heaven!
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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Nutty Butter Whole Grain Cookies


If anything comes close to a good-for-you cookie, this would be it.

Let's look at the facts:

Whole wheat flour,

a laughable 3 tablespoons of butter,

honey, and only 1/4 cup of it,

peanut butter (almond butter would make a great substitution),

rolled oats,

more nuts,

...and cocoa powder.

To summarize, that's more than half the butter than a regular cookie, more than half the sugar and a whole lot of fibre. We get fibre from the bran in the whole wheat flour, from peanut butter, from almonds and oats. Did you know that cocoa powder is an excellent source of fiber too? That's a fact.


To stay on track (and because its awesome) make sure to use bittersweet chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids. Anything less than 60% is just sweet. For some it is an acquired taste, but you'll find that the more you eat it, the more you will like it. Plus, if you like coffee, there is no reason why you wouldn't fall in love with bittersweet chocolate - cocoa and coffee share many of the same flavour characteristics.


These are not the chewy gooey type - that would require a whole lot more sugar! These are more of a drier cookie, but not crispy. They are solid. Once you take a bite, they begin to feel moist thanks to oats which contain beneficial soluble fiber that activates as soon as it comes in contact with liquid. Then the honey helps to retain moisture despite their dry appearance. 

These get stashed in my purse on my way out the door so that I can have a quick breakfast on the run. This is best for everyone - me and anyanyone around me. When I am fed I am happy and not hangry. If I am hangry, I will just be difficult. I'm not ashamed. Just keep me eating.


Nutty Butter Whole Grain Cookies
Makes 12 cookies

¼ cup (60ml) honey
3 tbsp (42g) unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp (30ml) smooth peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup (75g) rolled oats
2 tbsp (12g) cocoa powder, sifted
2/3 cup (95g) whole wheat flour
½ tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
70g bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp sliced almonds, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, melted butter, peanut butter and vanilla.

Add the oats, cocoa powder, whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined.

Fold in the chocolate chunks and almonds.

Divide the dough into 12 portions and roll into balls. Flatten into a circle on the baking tray, spreading them an inch apart — they will not spread in the oven.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops feel dry. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and then store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.


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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Toasted Almond Pralines


I was never one for goodbyes. It just feels so definite. It makes me think of... the End. I don't like the idea of good things ending. I prefer to think of it as moving forward. Focus on the newness.

The idea of never seeing someone again - someone who I connect with - makes me sad, frankly. People and relationships are what make us human. But honestly, if we really get each other, we will see each other again. Period. I have friends all over the world - friends I've made through academia, work and travel - and I am happy to say we've managed to reconnect on many occasions. It's up to y-o-u to make it happen.

Sometimes I'm just no good at saying goodbye, but I am good at making chocolate. So, I give chocolate.

Making chocolates requires patience and a delicate touch. It says "I think you're alright". There are different components, different textures, different heating and cooling stages and precision. It requires time. And what better gift to give to someone than your time.

The kicker is the dipping and setting. You need to temper chocolate (GAH!). Tempering is called just that because it can test your temper. Be patient, take time. It is essentially a controlled method of cocoa butter crystallization (super scientific, but super achievable).
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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Berry & Lime Crumble Tarts


If you are not neck-deep in fresh berries right now, then where the heck are you!?

Summer is like an antique jewellery box - full of rubies, sapphires and amethyst. There are so many gems to behold and devour.

I'm a nut in the summer time. I must go picking for all of these jewels - strawberry picking in June, cherry picking in July, then raspberry and blueberry picking in August. My tongue is consistently stained either red or purple. I save a lot of money on lipstick.
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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Salt & Vinegar Brownie Brittle


I get these crazy ideas.

Ideas about making a chocolate version of salt & vinegar potato chips. Totally weird. I like weird.

It's not the first time I've put savoury pantry ingredients in dessert before. My Sweet & Soy Pecan Chocolate Pie Bars proved to be irresistible. 

It's also not abnormal for my ideas to turn into inedible disasters. That happens. It sucks, but it happens. The bright side is that I always learn from it. I never let the fear of failure get in the way of my wacky ideas. Ideas (and love and chocolate) are what make the world go round.
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Sunday, June 21, 2015

White Chocolate & Blueberry Brown Butter Cookies


I used to hate white chocolate. I hated it so bad.

Mostly I hated it for spite. It's not chocolate. It would be like Crème Brûlée without the brûlée, or like J-Lo without the booty - she would just be Jennifer... or something.

It took me travelling to Portugal - makes no sense, I know - to discover how good white chocolate can really be. I understand I can taste great white chocolate anywhere really, but this is when I had my revelation. So, this is my story as weird as it is.

I was writing my Master's thesis and naturally this coincides with heavy consumption of chocolate day-in, day-out. Plus, my thesis was about the sensory properties of Portuguese red wine... So eating dark chocolate to complement red wine tastings was purely for research. Yeah... research.

There was this one supermarket called Pingo Doce that sold organic fair trade chocolate blocks that were delicious. The bittersweet bar - 70% cocoa - was well tempered and intense. And it was only 1.50 euro. For a student chocoholic, this was salvation. I loved it.
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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Tart


You know I couldn't go much longer....

20 weeks is FAR too long to make you wait for a chocolate & peanut butter recipe, so this is well deserved and well desired.

Back in January I posted Chocolate Brownie Peanut Butter Pies and I felt they needed a follow up. Those were small size hand pies - peanut butter cream cheese filling sandwiched between two fudgy chocolate biscuits. 

Today I'm thinking big - I'm dreaming of one giant Reese's peanut butter cup! One big round chocolate pastry shell filled with creamy whipped peanut butter and topped with a cracking chocolate coating. 

Imagine the journey your fork will take... First it will require some force as it breaks its way through the snappy chocolate shell. Once it breaks through, it plunges into a soft creamy pool of peanut butter. Then it will sink towards the bottom to encounter a crisp buttery cookie-like crust. Get ready for a world of textures and the king of flavour combos.

You are in for a treat.
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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Swirl Sour Cream Cake


The internet is a funny place. We can write whatever we want.

Eating too much chocolate turns your hair dark, carbohydrates are bad for you and Liam Neeson is a total bad-ass. Believe that or not, but there is only one thing about that sentence that is true (and it's not the carbohydrates).

Most of the stuff I read on the internet is food or travel-related. I like to read blogs and look at pictures of beautiful landscapes and interesting dishes. When it comes to scientific facts, I rely on what's in my brain, published journals and text books. That's the real stuff.

Something I find really funny about the food space in the internet world are the reactions from baked-goods gone bad! It's always the recipe's fault. The recipe didn't work! Even though I used half the butter and one-third of the sugar called for... It's still the recipe's fault! It just didn't work and what a waste of ingredients!

Changing proportions makes a whole new recipe - that's the cool (completely nerdy) thing about baking. To change a recipe means you should have some understanding of that and be prepared to take a calculated risk. I make this sound like gambling, but it's just food. It's really not a big deal (it's totally a big deal!).
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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Apricot & Almond Olive Oil Cake


This past month I blasted the blog with gluten-free recipes galore. I tried to cover all occasions.

For your everyday, I made Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. I pack these in the morning and can't wait to eat them. They're full of great ingredients and a sinch to make.

I made Flourless Chocolate Pear & Hazelnut Cake to impress your dinner guests - not only the special ones.

There were Freakin' Fudgy Gluten-Free Brownies that are the definition of fudgy. You might even replace your go-to brownie recipe.

And finally, the BEST Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Cookies because you just need to have these in your life.

Now I'm back baking with wheat and thought I'd also give my chocolate stash and my butter bank a break! Apricots are coming into season and they are a beaut to bake with. Gently cooked apricots take on a gnarly jammy flavour and retain their moist, almost creamy texture.
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Sunday, May 24, 2015

The BEST Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Cookies



As promised, I've been baking gluten-free all month. It has required a library of carbohydrates instead of just one. My pantry has been stocked with rice flour, oats and an array of tuber starches instead of the almighty all-purpose wheat flour.

I've learned that starch is a pain in the butt to clean up after!

You know that thing that happens when you add your dry ingredients to the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and then you are supposed to turn it back on low speed, but you somehow always switch swiftly past LOW and straight to MEDIUM? Well that means a whole lot more when working with starches. It means if you don't pay attention you will paper mache your kitchen.

The tricky thing about gluten-free baking is that to get the best results, you need to cater each recipe to the specific bakery product that you intend to make. It is very difficult to build one all-purpose gluten-free flour. The proportion of starches needs to be manipulated to suit the desired texture of the final product, such as an open texture for muffins, fine crumb for cakes, and dense moist texture for chewy cookies.
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