Friday, May 29, 2009
My boss bit into a cookie, looked at it thoughtfully and said, "this might be the best cookie i've ever had." It was good: crunchy at the edges and chewy in the middle, with strong chocolate and butterscotch flavors and a hint of sea-salt.
Are they worth the 36 hours of resting time? I'd say yes, provided that you follow the directions exactly. The ingredients, size, and technique make the cookie.
All-purpose flour will not yield the same results as the combination of cake and bread flours. Since chocolate is the featured flavor, it's important to use good-quality chips/discs/feves. I prefer using thin discs of couverture because they melt nicely and stack well within the cookie. Very large pieces won't distribute evenly. Small pieces aren't as prominent or indulgent (this vs this).
If you like small cookies, I wouldn't recommend using this recipe. You'll lose the crunchy/chewy contrast, and the cookies will be done before they're really golden. The original recipe calls for 99g portions, which were best. Ultimately, I settled for 80g portions because they were a little more manageable for one person.
I recommend using a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients and portions. Your cookies will be more consistent, and they'll look uniform and bake evenly. Good cookie sheets and an evenly-heating oven don't hurt either.
This recipe is fairly popular, as is Cook's Illustrated's recipe for "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies" and Alton Brown's "The Chewy." Personally, i'm still a fan of David Lebovitz's recipe. I'd make any of those recipes, depending on the occasion and audience.
You can find the New York Times recipe here.
at 11:44 AM
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Meringue is a tricky thing. It gets sticky in humid weather. It weeps when over or under beaten, or when the sugar doesn't dissolve completely. It can be cooked or uncooked, and range in textures from light and fluffy to dense and stiff. And, when prepared badly with poor eggs, it can taste horrible.
Harold Mcgee's entry on egg foams in On Food and Cooking will tell you everything you need to know about when and how to add sugar to egg whites. A basic knowledge of meringue-science can help you know what to expect from a recipe (and know when it's written badly).
I prefer the smooth, marshmallowy texture of cooked meringues. I love the meringue cookies from Tartine- they're crisp on the outside, but chewy in the middle. I love the mountain of meringue on the Lemon Meringue Pie from the LA Times. I can live without the wet, spongy, eggy meringue that tops so many pies.
I also like meringues with texture and flavor contrasts, like vacherins or pavlovas, or meringue based cakes filled with cream and fruit. Jin Patisserie makes a great one filled with mango and strawberries.
I'd hoped this Meringue Roulade from Sarah Raven's In Season would be similar. The original recipe is baked in a half sheet pan and filled and topped with raspberries. I decided to test a half batch in a 9x13 pan, and i'm glad I did because it was enough for 6-8 servings.
The unsweetened whipped cream filling is a nice contrast to the sugary meringue. Without the fruit, however, the finished cake is rather plain. This would be a great recipe to showcase ripe summer fruits.
As much as I liked the concept of this dessert, I'm not I preferred the meringue to a light sponge cake. I also added half a sheet of gelatin to the whipped cream filling to make it slice better and maintain its texture. It worked well, and I recommend adding 1 sheet to the full recipe.
Meringue Roulade with Raspberries
Adapted from Sarah Raven’s In Season
Sunflower oil, for the pan
6 egg whites
1 ½ cups superfine sugar
3 tbsp sliced almonds
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 cups fresh raspberries (or other berries)
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a swiss roll baking pan (I used a 13x18 sheet), with parchment paper and brush with oil.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl, until very stiff. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, whisking between each spoonful. Once the sugar has been added, continue whisking until the mixture is thick and glossy.
Spread the meringue mixture into the prepared pan and scatter with the sliced almonds. Place the pan near the top of the preheated oven and bake for 8 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325F and continue baking until golden brown. Don’t cook too long, or the meringue will be difficult to roll.
Remove from the oven and turn the cake, almond side down, onto a sheet of wax paper. Peel off the paper and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
Whisk the cream until it stands in stiff peaks (if you’re adding gelatin, add it towards the end of whipping) and gently fold in half of the raspberries. Spread the cream and berries over the meringue. Letting the wax paper help you, roll the long side fairly tightly until it is all rolled up. Wrap in parchment paper and chill before serving. Scatter the rest of the berries on top to serve.
at 8:20 AM