Brownie Cookies with Espresso Buttercream

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While my friends used my kitchen to make their first cioppino the other night, I took this test. Author Gary Chapman wrote a set of questions to help determine a person’s “love language.” Perhaps you feel loved when your partner holds your hand? Your love language is most likely “Physical Touch.”

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My results were as I expected. My love language is “Quality Time,” meaning I feel adored when people I care about make special time for me.

Though The 5 Love Languages are “Words of Affirmation,” “Acts of Service,” “Receiving Gifts,” “Quality Time,” and “Physical Touch,” I can’t help but think food is the 6th.

I mean forget a dozen red roses this Valentine’s Day, I feel most admired while sharing sweetbread agnolotti from Altura or Columbia City bread with butter and black salt.

Sharing food, giving food, making food and receiving food are some of the best forms of human connection. This Valentine’s Day, I decided to make these brownie cookies in heart shapes. I realized they needed frosting solely so sprinkles could adhere to them. The espresso in the frosting actually made the cocoa in the cookie taste more prominent.

Makes a lot of cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
  • 2/3 cup Dutch process cocoa, unsweetened
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whipping cream, half and half or milk
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

Whisk the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder together in a bowl. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl and add in the vanilla. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the butter. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

(Meanwhile you can make the frosting below)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove dough from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes to warm slightly. If it’s too hard and crumbly, grab a chunk at a time and squeeze it with your hands to soften it.

Divide the dough into 4-6 chunks and roll out on a flour work surface, until it is about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into any shape you’d like using cookie cutters.

Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 8-11 minutes depending on your thickness. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Frosting

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together for about 3 minutes, until fluffy. Dissolve the espresso powder in the milk in a separate bowl. Add this to the butter mixture. Beat for another minute or so until it is a spreadable consistency. Cover and keep in fridge until cookies are cool.

Frost the cookies and dust with sprinkles if you’d like.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

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The moment I saw Ellen the baker, a fellow participant, pulling a tin of homemade biscotti from underneath her bed, I knew I was in the right place. Molly O’Neill’s Longhouse Food Scholars program in Rensselaerville, New York—a place where food would be discussed all day long and where a group of people from all over the country could gush about their shared passion.

Normally when I think of biscotti, I imagine long, stale logs of cookie, which you inevitably slobber on it as it cuts the sides of your mouth. Ellen’s biscotti are something else, something special. They’re toothsome and soft, giving way to fudgy graceful bites.

Of course, I asked Ellen to teach me the craft of making biscotti.

Ellen reminded me I should always sift the dry ingredients—a step I usually skip over—and later when it seemed like the dough might crack, she said, “It’s okay. At the end of the day, it’s just a cookie.”

While chopping chocolate, Ellen told me about creating this recipe during years of working in restaurants and bakeries. She made it her personal mission to take the idea of a biscotti but make it more chocolaty. We melted butter with the chocolate in a double boiler. Her trick is to use melted chocolate, combined with an under baked approach for a richer flavor and texture.

While waiting for the biscotti to bake, we were sitting writing and heard a friendly neighbor through the window, “What’re you all making in there? Chocolate chip cookies?”

Ellen sprung from her chair and said, “When you smell the chocolate take them out!”

Makes 24 biscotti/Ellen Gray

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (Ellen uses Dutch Process)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 eggs, plus 1 egg white for a wash
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 ounces chopped dark chocolate
  • 6-8 ounces coarsely chopped almonds (or your preferred nut)

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baker powder and salt. Set aside.

In a double boiler, or very carefully in the microwave, melt the 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate with the butter.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the eggs and almond extract with the sugar until fluffy. Add the melted chocolate mixture. In three parts, slowly add the dry ingredients. Add the 6 ounces of chopped dark chocolate pieces.

The dough will be sticky. Turn the dough onto parchment paper, form a ball and cut in half. Roll each half into a log, cover in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap, and slightly press the tops of the logs to form a flattened cylinder. Place the logs on a parchment-lined sheet tray. Mix the egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush all over the tops.

Bake for about 25 minutes. The tops will still be soft to the touch. Let them cool.

IMG_1995 Slice the logs crosswise with a serrated knife into the size of biscotti you prefer. Then stand them up on a sheet tray again and bake at 325 degrees for 5-10 minutes depending on how crispy you like them. I would do closer to five. Then let the biscotti cool again before eating.

Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse

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I used to approach Valentine’s Day cynical, even if I wasn’t single. I liked disliking it. This year, I realized I love everything about it–chocolate, pink, giving/receiving gifts, baking, celebrating, homemade cards, hearts…I love love.

I woke up and had a chocolate chip pancake breakfast with friends, spent the whole afternoon in bed eating chocolate (which is now all over my new white sheets), then went to my favorite bar for a cheese plate and champagne with my best friend and finished it by watching When Harry Met Sally. Somewhere in that mix I also tackled chocolate mousse. I made Julia Child’s recipe, but used water in place of rum. I didn’t feel like buying rum and actually, the mousse was excellent without it. I also cut the recipe in half, which took a lot of math and a little luck. It was oh-so rich, the perfect sweetness and everything else a mousse should be. I topped it off with a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. The recipe emphasized using good chocolate. I could not agree more. It will be as good as the quality of the chocolate. I used 70 percent Green & Black. Because my measurements might not be trustworthy, here is the full recipe.

Makes 6-8 servings/Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces (170g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces (170g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) dark-brewed coffee
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2/3 cup (170g), plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) dark rum or water
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat a saucepan one-third full with hot water, and place a bowl on top. (I used a double boiler.) Melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee, stirring over the barely simmering water, until smooth. Remove from heat.

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

In a bowl large enough to nest securely on the saucepan of simmering water (double boiler), whisk the yolks of the eggs with the 2/3 cup of sugar, rum, and water for about 3 minutes until the mixture is thick. (It seemed for a while like it wasn’t working and then all of a sudden it was thick.)

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Remove from heat and place the bowl of whipped egg yolks within the bowl of ice water and beat until cool and thick. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer with the salt until frothy. Continue to beat until they start to hold their shape. Add in the tablespoon of sugar and continue to beat until thick and shiny, but not completely stiff, then the vanilla.

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Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remainder of the whites just until incorporated, careful not to overmix.

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Transfer the mousse to a serving bowl or divide into serving dishes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

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