Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week for Tuesdays With Dorie, our recipe was mocha chocolate chip cookies. I checked out the recipe and it pretty much looked like the standard Toll House cookie recipe, minus a bit of flour.

I hate that recipe.

Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

I can make Italian, Swiss, and French buttercreams. I can make marshmallows. I can make croissants. For the life of me, I can't make the Toll House cookie recipe generate a cookie that I'd actually want to eat. I've tried every trick I can think of to make that recipe create something other than a flat, fragile, lacy debacle: I've tried using melted butter instead of room temperature solid butter. I've tried refrigerating the dough. I've tried baking on cold sheet pans. I've tried using parchment and Silpats. I've tried ungreased cookie sheets. Still, the same result. The most success I've had is either by using more flour or by using bread flour. (I did have some moderate success using the recipe in the book from the One Girl Cookies folks, but can't quite recall how they have tweaked it.)

When I looked at this recipe, my first thought was, "This is total filler in this cookbook. It's a Toll House cookie with instant coffee in it. Big deal." I made it anyway. Clearly, I took a slightly different tack.

First, I did substitute bread flour. After letting the dough refrigerate for 24 hours, I opted to bake two test cookies to see what would happen. They flattened out more than I wanted, so I went to plan B. I lined a 9x13 pan with nonstick aluminum foil (a completely genius product), dumped in the remaining dough, and baked it for 25 minutes. Listen, I used a pound of Ghirardelli double chocolate chips in this batter. I wasn't going to end up with a batch of something inedible. Hence, hello, bar cookie!

They are perfectly adequate. I'm not sure I love the combo of coffee and diced apricots, but whatever. They're edible, and I know they'll get eaten.

For the recipe, visit this week's host!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tuesdays With Dorie: Croissants

This week for Tuesdays With Dorie, we made croissants. I've actually made croissants before, when I was in cooking school. It was late afternoon one day in early August, and the day we started them, it was in the 90s in terms of temperature, with a fairly high dew point. Needless to say, in our modestly climate-controlled kitchen, these conditions were not optimal for the preparation of croissants. I mean, how were we supposed to prevent the butter from softening, much less melting, as we were shaping it even prior to starting to laminate the dough? Needless to say, it wasn't the optimal training situation for first-time croissant makers. I don't recall how they turned out, but it certainly wasn't an experience that had me revved up ever to try it again.

Fast forward 20 years, and there I was, all gung ho that we should tackle croissants for March 2013. Apparently, enough other people agreed and that was the choice. Then I looked at my schedule and saw only disaster. I was prepared to pull the plug on it before I even got going. On top of work insanity on weekdays and a class I started last Tuesday night, my weekend leading up to croissant day for TWD was as follows:

Saturday: Be at high school by 7:45 a.m. to help with Girl Scout cookie distribution. At 10:30, leave cookie distribution to take the child to work (50-minute drive from home). Idle while child is working, then rush home to take child to meet friends at the movies. Run to library to return books before library closes. Get home. Run errands and help prep for daylong Girl Scout cookie booth Sunday. Help to double-check cookie orders for troop.

Sunday: Up at 5:30. Quick workout, then shower, then off to drop off huge GS cookie order at location 45 minutes from home. Rush back to the grocery store to help with cookie booth sale, all day long, outside, in the cold, with intermittently blustery wind. Sale scheduled to go from 9 a.m. til 4 p.m. (Reality: We were at the store til 5:30 p.m.)

Yes, somehow in that mess, I was supposed to squeeze in croissants. I checked the questions thread at TWD and decided I had to throw in the towel on this one. I couldn't see how I was going to make it happen. When I checked the recipe in Baking With Julia, that firmed up my decision. The recipe just seemed too time-consuming.

Then I remembered a feature Fine Cooking did a few years ago on from-scratch croissants and decided to check that out to see if maybe there was a way I could streamline the Baking With Julia process. Remembering that article ended up being a major save.

In the end, I used a hybrid of the two processes. I suspect that perhaps my croissants weren't as light and flaky as the Baking With Julia ones would have been, followed to the letter. On the other hand, I wasn't going to argue with what came out of my oven.

How did I get it done? On Friday, I started the dough, then left it in the fridge for almost 24 hours before coming back to it. On Saturday, after I got home from the library but before starting errands, I made the butter layer, rolled out the block of dough, then did the first incorporation of the butter into the dough. I popped that in the fridge, then ran some errands. When we got home, I rolled out the dough for the second lamination. Then we ran out to grab a quick dinner. When we got home from dinner, I did the third lamination. Then I squared off the corners of the block of dough, wrapped it up tight, and put it in the fridge. Sunday night, even before I cleaned out my car of cookie-booth debris, I rolled out the dough, then cut and shaped the croissants. I wasn't sure what I'd do for a warm, moist area to let them rise. After glazing them with an egg wash, I decided just to put the baking sheets in the oven with the oven light on. After two hours, they looked puffy and jiggly, so I figured they were good enough to bake. I reglazed them with the egg wash and popped them back in the hot oven. At this point, I was optimistic.

Every three minutes, I was looking in the oven window. When I rotated the trays halfway through the baking time, I was starting to feel pretty full of myself, because I realized I had managed to pull off something that I didn't think I had a chance of doing just a few days before.

All in all, I could not be happier about how the croissants turned out. What saved me, I think, is that there is not necessarily as much active time as there is resting time for the dough.

The croissants ended up being a huge hit at home. Usually, I bring baked goods in to work to share. I didn't bring in the croissants, for two reasons:

1. I enjoy having my limbs attached to my body.
2. I prefer sleeping indoors.

My photographic documentation is pathetic. That is definitely one part of this project that suffered this time around. On the other hand, I am feeling pretty certain that I will actually make croissants again. In fact, I think I have to, as I want to make chocolate croissants. Also, I'm feeling pretty good about the prospect of making puff pastry and danish pastry. My favorite part of Monday has been doing a recap of my crazy weekend, and finishing it off by saying, "Oh, and I made croissants from scratch, too."

For the full recipe, visit this week's host at Girl + Food = Love.