Monday, July 8, 2013

Book 100: Bittersweet

by Alice Medrich

I found it fitting that my one-hundredth book be by Alice Medrich. It was Alice's book, Cocolat, a gift from my husband many moons ago that go me started on a baking adventure of a lifetime. I love Cocolat - the recipes are easy enough for the average home baker to make, yet they will impress your family and friends, as I'm sure the recipes in this book will too.

It was hard to pick a recipe from this book. There are so many beautiful and delicious sounding cakes, breads, cookies, (and even a couple savory dishes!) to choose from. Originally I was going to go with Alice's Tribute Cake, a beautiful chocolate cake filled with ganache, frosted with a chocolate glaze and decorated with ruffled chocolate fans. This, has my name written all over it.


However, I opted for the Coconut Saras. These are a different take on her Sarah Bernhardt cookies from Cocolat. In this recipe she uses a coconut macaroon rather than an almond macaroon (not to be confused with macaron. Though macaron is French for macaroon, they are a different cookie). I must say I do prefer the coconut over the almond (I have made both).

The base of this petit dessert is the coconut macaroon, this is topped with a chocolate ganache, and dipped in, and drizzled with, a chocolate glaze. Yep. Sounds good doesn't it?

As I was finishing these up, our daughter stopped by and she did a taste test for me. Her reaction was "Mmm, I can eat these all day" and frankly, so could I.

Success meter (1-3): 3

To make the ganache, finely chop your chocolate.

Bring some cream to a simmer and pour over the chocolate and mix until smooth.

Let cool before refrigerating overnight.

Oops. I thought I forgot to add all of the chocolate. I reheated the cooled chocolate mixture over a water bath and stirred in the extra chocolate. Only later did I realize this was not the case.

The macaroons are made from sweetened coconut, sugar, egg white, vanilla, and salt. (The leftover egg yolks I will be using to make Alice's recipe for Chocolate Mint Ice Cream!)

Mix macaroon ingredients together in a stainless steel bowl and place in a waterbath, and cook until the egg whites are no longer runny, and have turned from translucent to opaque.

The recipe calls for you to drop by the tablespoons full (I used a scoop approx. 2.5" in diameter - holds about 1 tablespoon). I thought they looked a bit large, so for my second batch I went with a smaller scoop. (Approx. 1 1/8" in diameter.)

I found the tip of a candy thermometer dipped in water worked well to create a hole in the center of the cookie to form the nest shape.

Wouldn't these be cute at Easter filled with mini chocolate eggs? In that case, use the larger scoop.

The chilled ganache. This you whip until it is spreadable, yet firm enough to hold a shape.

This is how it is NOT supposed to look like after whipping! Spreadable? No. I realized later that when the recipe called for half of the chocolate ganache recipe, I used half of the cream, but ALL of the chocolate called for, in a full recipe. Oops. No worries though. It still tasted great, I just was not able to pipe the ganache onto the cookies. Instead, I had to spoon the mixture on.

They would have been cutter if I were able to pipe the ganache onto the cookie rather than having to spoon it on.

You may be thinking that is a lot of chocolate. Not really. In no way is it heavy. The chocolate melts the moment it hits your mouth, and you have this deliciously smooth, satiny, chocolatey goodness that compliments the coconut cookie. It's a bit reminiscent of an almond joy - sans the almond. Light bulb moment!! Add an almond to the center of the ganache!!! Oh yeah.

I can't very well say that I am at the halfway point of cooking through my two-hundred plus books. I have come to the realization that this is going to be a never-ending project, for I keep adding to my collection; this is not a bad thing, not in my book at least.

Coconut Saras
Makes 20 -24 pastries

4 large egg whites
3 cups (9 oz.) sweetened coconut
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
scant ¼ tsp. salt

½ recipe whipped chocolate ganache filling (recipe follows)

5 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Special Equipment:

Cookie sheets
A pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with a 7/16- to ½- inch opening
Instant read thermometer

To make the macaroons: Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large heatproof bowl, preferably stainless steel (which conducts heat much better than glass). Set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, until the mixture is very hot to the touch and the egg whites have thickened slightly and turned from translucent to opaque, 6 to 7 minutes. A scoop of batter dropped onto a cookie sheet should hold a soft shape without a puddle of syrup forming around it. Remove the bowl from the skillet.

Scoop tablespoons of the mixture about 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheets. Use your finger to make a hollow depression in the center of each cookie so it looks like a little nest. Bake for 13- to 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies – and any protruding coconut shreds – are deep golden brown. Rotate the sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.

Slide the cookies on the parchment onto cooling racks. Cool completely before removing them from the paper. (They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.)

To fill and dip the macaroons: Beat the chilled ganache just until the color lightens and the mixture becomes stiff enough to hold its shape – if you overbeat the ganache, it will have a granular texture. Scrape the ganache into the pastry bag. Pipe a 1-inch high kiss-shaped mound (about 1 tablespoon of ganache) into each macaroon “nest.” Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.

Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of almost simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is nearly melt, then remove from the heat and continue to stir until the chocolate is completely smooth. Wipe the moisture from the bottom of the bowl and transfer the chocolate to a very small bowl or cup. If necessary, let the chocolate cool to about 105°F. Then turn the macaroon right side up, hold it over the bowl, and use a fork to drizzle a little chocolate around the edges. Set the macaroon on a tray. Repeat until all of the macaroons are dipped. Refrigerate to set the chocolate.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache Filling
Yields enough to make the preceding recipe

4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped medium-fine
1 cup heavy cream

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is mostly melted. Let stand for 15-20 minutes to be sure all of the chocolate particles are completely melted.

Stir the ganache until perfectly smooth. Let cool. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the ganache for at least 6 hours or overnight; it must be very cold or it will curdle when it is whipped. (The ganache can be prepared up to 4 days ahead.)

When you are ready to use the ganache (and not before), whip it until it is stiff enough to hold a nice shape and seems spreadable, but don’t overdo. Over-whipped ganache looks granular, so watch it carefully; I usually stop the mixer early and finish the whipping by hand. After whipping, the ganache will firm as it sits (and even more after it is chilled), so spread it immediately. If you accidentally over-whip, or if the ganache becomes too stiff to spread, warm your spatula by rinsing it under hot tap water and wiping it dry as necessary.

Bittersweet/Alice Medrich

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