Chocolate Espresso Wafer Cookies

chocolate espresso wafers

So, January.  Getting the new year off to a good start and all that.

Except I really didn’t.

Instead, I tried making an icebox cake. Okay, a couple of icebox cakes.  

If you’ve never made one, an icebox cake usually consists of whipped cream and wafer cookies, although some recipes add in pudding and/or fruit.  I attempted a few slightly different versions of the cookies and cream variety, and was surprised when I was completely underwhelmed.  I had expected that I’d absolutely love it, mostly due to the copious amounts of whipped cream, but it was just okay.  Nothing special.  I mean, if I’m going to use approximately three cups of heavy cream (yes, I really said three cups!) in a dessert, it’s got to knock my socks off. 

While the cake(s) were definitely not a hit, these Chocolate Espresso Wafer Cookies were.  Most of the icebox cakes called for packages of store-bought chocolate wafers, but this gem, from smitten kitchen, is the the homemade version of the cookie, and so much better than the supermarket kind.  They are delicious on their own, and great for making a crumb crust.  I can easily imagine them in all sorts of other fabulous scenarios, like this beauty of a Classic Ice Cream Cake, via Kinfolk.

Making a double batch of cookies is highly recommended, especially if you plan to use a portion for another dessert.

Chocolate Espresso Wafer Cookies

Makes about 50-60 cookies.  Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, here.

1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened and cut into 12 pieces
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

Mix together the milk, vanilla paste and espresso in a bowl or cup with a pouring spout and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda and pulse several times to incorporate.  Add butter and pulse until just mixed through. With the processor running, add in the reserved milk mixture and continue to process until it is fully incorporated, about one minute, or until the mixture begins to clump around the blade or sides of the bowl.  Transfer the dough to a cutting board and knead through a few times to make sure it is evenly blended.  Form the dough into a log about one and three-quarter inches in diameter.  Wrap the log in waxed paper and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350℉, with racks positioned in the upper and lower thirds.  Cut the log of dough into scant 1/4-inch thick slices and place them one inch apart on the reserved baking sheets (they will spread a bit).  Bake, rotating the baking sheet from top to bottom and back to front halfway through the baking time, for a total of twelve to fifteen minutes.  The cookies will puff up and then deflate – they will be done about 90 seconds after they deflate.

Slide the parchment from the baking sheets onto racks to cool completely.  Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks or frozen for up to two months.

Snickerdoodles

snickerdoodles

Hello, 2013.  So pleased to meet you.

While I made my list of New Year’s resolutions, I realized they were really more like New Year’s aspirations – stuff I really, really want to make/see/do but just haven’t quite gotten around to yet.  Some of the things on my list are repeats from previous years that are still pending, while some are debuting as the result of new inspiration.  So it appears that this will be the year I spend some time in Venice (the California one), learn some basic embroidery, and desperately try not to kill the succulents, herbs or lime tree I’ll be planting in containers in the courtyard.

Building on last year’s chandelier success, the Fun with Electricity theme will continue, and more lighting fixtures will be produced – hopefully a big kitchen overhead number made with recycled glass.  I’m going to swim more, fly a kite, go camping, visit at least one observatory, and sample all the outlandish ice cream flavors I can (starting with cap’n crunch).  I’m going to use as many different modes of transportation as possible this year, from aeriel tram to zip-line, and attend an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner.  I’m planning on making chinese potstickers for the first time, as well as brioche, giardiniera and a charlotte.  I’m going to try my hand at candy making, using the addictive Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook as a guide.  

And finally, I’m going to make more cookies.  Lots.  Starting with these practically perfect snickerdoodles, which I munched on while making my list.

Whatever you are doing in 2013, make it marvelous!

snickerdoodles cooling

Snickerdoodles
Makes about 30 cookies.  Adapted from Martha Stewart, here.

2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350℉.  In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Line baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low and add in one half of reserved flour mixture, mix until incorporated. Scrape down bowl and add in remaining flour mixture and mix again.

In a small bowl, stir together cinnamon, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons sanding sugar.  Shape dough into about 30 (one inch in diameter) balls and roll in thoroughly in cinnamon sugar.  Place dough balls on prepared cookie sheets about three inches apart.  Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, approximately 12 -15 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to one week.

2013

Toasted Coconut Shortbread Owls

Things are getting spooky.

This month, which celebrates all things creepy, crawly and downright scary, you may find yourself eating and drinking some weird-looking stuff.  Halloween revelry can go a little looney that way.  Along with all the dry ice cauldrons of witches’ brew, there will be party fare that, visually speaking, veers on the morbid side – bugs and mold, blood and guts, severed limbs and spiderwebs. And, sometimes, eyeballs free-floating in your glass. Suddenly, black and orange and gross all over is in. Deliciously fiendish.

For the most gloriously macabre confections you’ve ever seen, check out Lou Lou P’s Delights.   While the Halloween Lovers fruitcake and the Classic Horror red velvet cupcakes are eerie, the Women in Horror cake pops (via Laughing Squid) are truly frightening.  Plus, they are heads impaled on sticks… how very Vlad!

Dialing down the terror and turning toward the whimsical are these toasted coconut shortbread owls.  Light, buttery and crisp, with a lovely coconut accent – and without the overly chewy texture often associated with coconut. Toasting and grinding the coconut enhances the flavor, while eliminating the “grit”.  If you don’t have pure coconut extract on hand, you can double down on the vanilla in its place.      

With shortbread,  it is fair to say that butter is the star, so use the very best you can.  For this recipe, I used Straus Family Creamery European-Style Organic Unsalted Butter.  The high butterfat content (85%) is just perfect for this cookie, yielding an excellent, crumbly composition and uniform light golden brown color.

These are very good plain, but here I’ve topped the cookies with a little melted chocolate drizzle for some extra sweetness.  Just because I give a hoot.   

     

Toasted Coconut Shortbread Owls
Makes about 36 cookies.  Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, here.  Original recipe from Bon Appetit, here.

Cookies:
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure coconut extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/3 cup flour

Chocolate Drizzle:
4 – 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the cookies:  Preheat oven to 325℉.  Line a rimmed baking tray with parchment and spread coconut on top.  Bake about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until coconut is light golden throughout. Allow to cool completely, then pulse in a food processor or blender until coarsely ground. Set aside.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Mix in extracts and salt.  Stop mixer, add in half of the flour, and beat on low speed until incorporated.  Repeat with remaining flour.  Add reserved toasted coconut, mixing until just incorporated.  Remove dough from bowl, flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour*.

Preheat oven to 325℉.  Line two rimmed baking trays with parchment and set aside. Lightly flour a work surface and rolling pin, and roll out dough disc to a scant 1/4-inch thickness.  Using cookie cutter (the owl I used was about 3 inches tall by 1 1/4 inches wide), cut dough into owl shapes.  Transfer cookies to reserved baking trays, spacing about an inch apart.  Gather dough scraps, roll out dough again, and cut out remaining cookies.

Once all cookies have been cut, place trays in the oven and bake until light golden, about 15-17 minutes, rotating trays halfway through the baking process.  Cool on baking trays 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate drizzle:  On the stovetop, heat a small saucepan of water to simmering.  Place chopped chocolate and one tablespoon of the butter in a small, heatproof bowl.  Set the bowl on top of the simmering water and heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is completely melted, adding more butter as necessary (up to 2 tablespoons) to achieve piping consistency (chocolate should be smooth and shiny). Remove from heat.

Spoon chocolate mixture into an icing bag fitted with a small tip, and pipe over cooled cookies immediately.  Allow chocolate to set completely, about 30 minutes.

Cookies will keep for up to one week, stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temperature.

*  Refrigerated dough can be prepared up to two days in advance.  Allow to soften slightly, for a few minutes, at room temperature before rolling out.

Proof Bakery, Los Angeles

Is it possible to fall in love with a bakery?

In case you were wondering, it is.  Most definitely.

Especially so if the establishment in question is Proof, a quirky, mod little jewel box of a bakery located in Los Angeles.

The smallish scale of the actual building belies the plethora of choices here, which may be your only conundrum – what to order?  Sweet and savory, Proof has it all going on, simultaneously. Those cases and counters are jammed full of good stuff – quiches, breads, tarts, galettes, cakes, cookies (sandwiches debut at noon each day).  The menu varies to take full advantage of seasonal produce.  All that plus fresh juice and fantastic coffee, via Handsome Coffee Roasters and Cognoscenti Coffee.

This dizzying bounty temporarily distracted me from my primary purpose, a mission really, to sample their chocolate chip cookies.  I’d been referred by a friend who is adamant that the baking wizards at Proof make The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie, Ever. Being a lifelong devotee of chocolate chip cookies (a sort of a unofficial ambassador, really), I decided it fell within the scope of my duties to investigate fully.  This kind of claim can’t just be allowed to hang out there in the universe, unsubstantiated.

Although self-appointed to this position, I have my credentials – I’ve tried countless chocolate chip cookies from all over (other continents, even!), and it has been super hard work.  Okay, it hasn’t been super hard work, but nevertheless, there it is.  So I marched in to Proof and requisitioned their chocolate chip cookie.  In reality, I just asked the smiling, friendly guy behind the counter for several cookies and paid my modest sum, but “requisitioning” sounds more in line with my self-bestowed title.  We took our treats to one of the little marble-topped window tables, as both of the highly-coveted al fresco spots on the sidewalk were occupied.

I’m not precisely sure if it is the Maldon sea salt, the rich chocolate, the perfect, chewy/crumbly texture, or the fact that they are just the absolutely spot-on amount of sweet, but yes, it was confirmed – these cookies are the best ever.  Swoon.  Proof also offers these same phenomenal chocolate chip cookies as the magnificent foundation for their version of the perennial summer classic, the ice cream sandwich, which features Straus organic vanilla ice cream in the center.  Double swoon.

So now that the whole chocolate chip cookie thing was resolved, we celebrated by eating more stuff, of course.  My companion, who is way more into the savory side of life (like, cheese is an acceptable dessert for him), ordered one of the specials for the day, salami and arugula on stecca.  Basically, it was a salt-flecked, slender baguette, which I’d imagine would taste fabulous with just about anything on it – truly great bread has that way of elevating good, simple ingredients to lofty heights.  He was kind enough to share, then ordered another to go.  I tried to convince him to try one of the sandwiches with beets and goat cheese, which sounded amazing, but he was already quite attached to the salami and arugula combo.  In the end, I relented, mostly because he bought another half-dozen chocolate chip cookies for me for the road (plus a latte and a coconut macaroon).

With a schedule to keep, we left reluctantly, with our traveling provisions, but not before scooping up a bag of the house-made granola and a jar of preserves from Sqirl, for gifts.   

I just knew there was no way those cookies would make it to our next destination intact.

Details:
Proof Bakery
3156 Glendale Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA  90039
Phone:  323.664.8633
Proof website (and menu!), here