Entries from April 21st, 2006

Sugar High Friday #18: Almond Apricot Pound Cake with Amaretto

April 21st, 2006 · 19 Comments · Cakes, Recipes

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I have a confession to make.

Although I have no aversion to pretty, colorful mixed drinks when I am out, my liqueur collection at home has been constructed entirely from my baking needs. The very first alcoholic ingredients to grace my shelves were, I believe, Kahlua and brandy, which were called for in the tiramisu recipe I was using. After the baking was over the bottles were relegated to the back of the pantry, until a visiting friend queried me in incredulous disbelief, "You mean you have no alcohol in this apartment at all?" (We were, after all, in college), to which I replied, "I think I have some Kahlua somewhere." Suffice to say I was not exactly equipped to host wild parties at my place. However, I did manage to add to my paltry beginnings as time went on and I learned the usefulness of having wines and spirits around to add dimensions of flavor to my cooking.

When I saw the topic for this month’s Sugar High Friday, I knew where I would look. Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen is both a tempting cookbook and a useful reference on baking ingredients – fully half of the book is devoted to discussions on fats, sugar, flours, etc, as well as flavorings such as liqueurs. Daley writes that "…liqueurs and spirits add depth, dimension, and complexity of flavor (not to mention a pleasant little kick, where desired)." This is how I prefer to use my collection of spirits – to add that extra fillip to flavor to my baking.

I picked one of her recipes I’d been meaning to try for a while: Almond Apricot Pound Cake with Amaretto.  Almond is one of my very favorite flavors, and I find its scent in the kitchen heavenly, even more than vanilla. Adding Amaretto is quite intuitive, since the liqueur is made not just from bitter almonds but from apricot pits, and thus enhances both those flavors in the cake. Although the recipe also calls for apricot brandy, I could not find any in the store that appealed to me so I left it out, preferring to emphasize the almond aspects.

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This dessert is pound cake at its best: firm, with a tight but delicate crumb that collapses easily in the mouth into velvety goodness. It is also quite moist, most likely from the sour cream and the almond paste (The original recipe called for marzipan, but I prefer making almond paste from scratch; I’ve found the stuff in stores often has an odd tinned scent to it and has more sugar than almonds). Dried apricots studded throughout add bursts of chewy sweetness. The layering of flavors, from toasted almonds to almond extract to the Amaretto and the almond paste, create a marvelous complexity to the taste. It is quite sweet, more than most pound cakes, so it is very fitting for a dessert. As it is also a large cake, it will work quite well for the party I will be attending tomorrow. If I don’t eat it all myself, first…

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adapted from In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley

makes about 16 to 20 servings

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds, toasted

3 cups sugar

1 cup butter, room temperature

4 ounces almond paste, room temperature

6 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons almond extract

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup Amaretto

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup cake flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sour cream

2/3 cup chopped dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. (I used a 9-inch springform pan with a bundt-style bottom; it made it easier to unmold the cake and there was enough batter left to fill a regular loaf pan).

Grind the toasted almonds and 3 tablespoons of sugar together in a food processor until very fine.

Combine the flour, cake flour, salt and baking soda together in a bowl and set aside.

In the mixer bowl combine the butter and sugar together on medium speed until very fluffy and pale. Add the almond paste and combine until well blended. (It is best to add the almond paste in small pieces to allow it to incorporate more easily. Be sure it is soft enough to blend; you don’t want to break the mixer!) Add in the ground almond-sugar mixture.

Add the eggs one at the time, scraping down between each addition. Add the almond and vanilla extracts, and the Amaretto.  The mixture should be very fluffy by now.

Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with sour cream in two additions.  Be careful not to overbeat the mixture at this point or the cake will become overly dense and flat.

Fold in the apricots. Turn the mixture out into the tube pan, filling it up a little over three-quarters of the way.

Bake the cake in the oven for about an hour to hour and a half, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Run an offset spatula or knife around the edge of the pan and the center tube. Unmold the cake unto the rack and let it finish cooling. You should wait until it is cool before serving because the cake is quite crumbly and delicate while it is still warm. However, I could not resist eating some of the bits that fell off – and they were very delicious!

Store the cake either in a cake container or wrapped in plastic.

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Apple Phyllo Napoleons

April 13th, 2006 · 7 Comments · Fruit, Recipes

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As a self-proclaimed pastry fanatic, I am expected to eschew all things pre-made, processed, preservative laden- in other words, things that are the antithesis of home baking.  I will admit I avoid the Chips Ahoy bags when I go to the grocery store.  I will admit that the first time I brought cookies to work and someone asked if I had made them from a mix I was a little insulted.  But it doesn’t mean that I don’t see the value of a good shortcut.  One of the things I went to pastry school for was to practice the art of tart crusts: I was tired of my crust doughs that were too sticky, too crumbly, too everything-but-cooperative, that always led me to tears and a rock-hard, tasteless crust. 

Imagine my surprise to learn that many professional bakeries do not roll out their dough by hand but use sheeters, a magical invention that will take a blob of dough and flatten it out to the perfect thickness in mere seconds. I was immediately enamored – imagine all those hours of frustration I could have saved!  But alas, most commercial sheeters are too large (and expensive)for the home kitchen. And, I decided, being able to roll out a tart crust by hand was something every baker should be able to do – what if I ended up somewhere without a sheeter and this gaping hole in my skills was revealed?

So I persevered in class (we had no sheeter there anyway), and by the end of school I felt much better about handling those tempermental doughs.  I’d even tackled puff pastry and made some wonderfully flaky tarts and croissants. But one dough we hadn’t worked with was phyllo, that marvelous tissue-thin dough from Istanbul that is most famously used for baklava. Unlike puff pastry, which is made from "blocks" of dough and butter that are folded into hundreds of layers that expand gloriously when baked, phyllo is made from flour, water, and oil worked in an ultra-elastic dough that is stretched into one huge, thin, sheet.  This sheet is cut to smaller, workable pieces; individual sheets of phyllo can be brushed with butter,stacked on top of each other,and baked to produce crisp, flaky layers similar to puff pastry.

Emily Luchetti used this idea for her Apple Phyllo Napoleons in A Passion for Desserts. Instead of giving a recipe for making phyllo dough, she suggested a brand from the store. I decided if this little shortcut was good enough for Emily, surely I could try it too.

In fact, it was quite an interesting challenge itself to use the phyllo from the store – there were very strict instructions on how to defrost the dough and use it so the layers would not stick together or tear. Because there is so little fat in the dough, the thin sheets dry out quickly so they need to stay covered and also be brushed with butter or oil to prevent cracking. Even though the delicate sheets made me nervous, I actually found they fairly easy to work with and forgiving – any tears can be patched and will bake off fine – just don’t use it for the top layer.

These napoleons are light and indulgent at the same time – the sweet, crispy phyllo makes the dessert seem ethereal, and is a perfect base for the juicy apples and cinnamon-scented cream. A very nice treat for spring, especially as it looks like the rainy weather is finally coming to an end here and we’ll have sunshine at last.

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adapted from Emily Luchetti’s A Passion for Desserts

Makes 8 servings

Apples

6 apples (I used Braeburn; she also suggests Jonathan, Gala, or Golden Delicious)

5 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 ounce unsalted butter

Phyllo

2 ounces pecans, toasted

1/2 cup sugar

4 sheets phyllo, defrosted (I used Athens brand from the store – follow instructions on box)

4 ounces butter, melted

Cinnamon Cream

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

3 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Peel, core, and slice the apples about 1/8 inch thick.  Cook the apples, sugar, salt, lemon juice,and butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until the apples are soft but not mushy. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Finely grind the pecans and sugar in a food processor.

You will need a fairly large surface to work with the phyllo. Keep the sheets you are not using to the side under plastic wrap and damp towel. Take a single sheet of phyllo and lay it flat on the work surface. Brush the phyllo with some of the melted butter and sprinkle with a quarter of the pecan sugar. Lay a second sheet of phyllo on top and repeat the process. Do the same with the other two sheets of phyllo.

Trim the filo into a 16 x 12 inch rectangle.  Kitchen shears or a pizza cutting wheel will work; a sharp knife works as well but be careful when dragging it not to tear the phyllo. Cut the rectangle into 3 x 4 inch rectangles. Using a spatula transfer the rectangles to the baking sheets. Bake about 10 minutes or until they have turned golden brown and crispy.

Meanwhile, combine the cream, sugar, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and whip until soft peaks form.

Place a rectangle on a plate. Place some of the apples and then some of the cream on top. Place another rectangle on top. Serve immediately.  I find these are best when the phyllo and apples are still warm. In the photos I used three layers of phyllo but it does get a little unwieldy to eat.

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Linzer Tart

April 10th, 2006 · 8 Comments · Chocolate, Recipes, Tarts

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Linzertorte is of the most famous desserts to come out of Austria, along with Sachertorte (see Rick Rodger’s wonderful Kaffehaus for an absorbing history of Eastern European pastry).  A delicate crust made with ground almonds, egg yolks (hard-boiled, different from French pâte sucrée),and spices, is filled with preserves and topped with a lattice crust.  Interestingly, the traditional preserves of choice was blackcurrant, but today most of us are more familiar with the cheery red of raspberry preserves peeking from beneath the crust.  The Linzertorte is supposed to be the oldest known cake in the world: recipes for the dessert date back to 1693. Linzertorte’s bite-sized cousin, the Linzer cookie, is quite famous in its own right – the most elegant and European take on a sandwich cookie.

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I had never gotten around to trying Pierre Hermé’s rendition of the Linzertorte, and I wish I had sooner. It is so simple to make and the results are absolutely stellar. Hermé takes the traditional Linzertorte crust, recasts it in the classic French tart ring, spreads in a layer of homemade raspberry jam, and above that pours a decadent layer of chocolate ganache.  Raspberry and chocolate – one of my favorite flavor combinations. I can tell you I was very impatient to try the result!

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This recipe was nothing but fun from start to finish.  The dough for the crust is a bit more crumbly than for a traditional pâte sucrée, but quite workable – the recipe even says that you can pat the dough into the ring, and any tears are easily patched.  Making raspberry jam reminded me of how much more satisfying homemade is than store bought.  A few pints of raspberries boiled in a pot with some sugar for several minutes resulted in a bowl of ruby-red jam so sweetly tart I had to restrain myself from stealing spoonfuls for the rest of the day. Putting together ganache is also one of baking’s finest pleasures: turning hot cream and chocolate into a smooth, molten, sensual luxury for the palate.

With the exception of making and baking off the tart shell, the entire dessert can be assembled (and enjoyed)quite quickly.  This is one of those looks-plain-but-tastes-rich desserts – no extra frills or garnishes are needed to enhance the star components. The tart is a perfect balance of flavors and textures – the marvelously thin, crisp crust, tasting of nuts and cinnamon; the bright tartness of the raspberries, and the rich lushness of the chocolate. To me,it tastes like a truffle in tart form.

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adapted from Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Desserts

Crust

3 1/2 ounces butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground blanched almonds (I use pre-ground almond powder from Trader Joe’s)
1 hard-boiled egg yolk, pressed through a fine sieve into crumbs
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
1 teaspoon dark rum
pinch of double-acting baking powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Place butter in a food processor and process until creamy.  Add the confectioners’ sugar, ground almonds, egg yolk, cinnamon, and salt, and blend together. Add in the rum and blend.  Add in the baking powder and flour and process until thoroughly blended. The dough will be quite soft. Scrape the dough out into a ball, and then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for about 4 hours until firm.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place an 8 3/4-in tart ring on the sheet. Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1/4 in and fit into the ring. If you are having difficulty with the dough, you can also pat it into the ring. One trick I learned in pastry school was to place the tart ring over the rolled-out dough and trim the dough in a circle slightly larger than the ring (to accommodate the sides);then carefully wrap the circle around the rolling pin and unroll over the ring.  It’s much easier to fit a circular piece of dough into a ring rather than a large unwieldy shape.

When the dough has been fitted into the ring, trim the top even with ring, and chill for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven 350 degrees.  When the dough is ready, fit a circle of parchment  paper inside and fill with rice or beans.  Bake the crust for about 18 to 20 minutes, then remove the parchment and rice and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes or the crust is colored.  Let crust cool on rack.

Raspberry Jam

2 pints raspberries
1 1/3 cups sugar
lemon juice

Put berries in a food processor and process for about 5 minutes. Scrape into a heavy pot and add the sugar.  Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, stirring occasionally, until the jam thickens. About 5 to 10 minutes on med-high heat was enough for me; don’t let the berries burn!

Stir in about a tablespoon of lemon juice and pour the jam into a bowl to cool. It should thicken more as cools; if it is too runny you can boil it a bit more in the microwave.

Chocolate Ganache

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Hermé calls for Valrhona Guanaja), finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

Place the chocolate in a large bowl.  Bring the cream to a boil on the stove and pour over the chocolate. Stir gently with a rubber spatula to combine, avoiding vigorous movement which will incorporate extra air. Beat the butter with a spatula until it is soft and creamy, and then add in two additions to the chocolate mixture, also combining carefully until it is fully mixed.

At this point you can let it cool on the countertop for a bit until it has thickened but is still pourable. You can also store it in the refrigerator for later – to warm it up place in the microwave and heat for 5 second intervals, checking and stirring frequently.  You do not want to heat chocolate in the microwave for a long period of time because you could overcook and ruin the consistency of the ganache.

Assembly

Spread about 3/4 cup of raspberry jam over the bottom of the tart crust. The ganache should be warm (not hot) and pourable.  Pour over the jam and spread to fill just to the top of the crust (you will probably have leftover ganache – don’t overfill).  Place tart into the refrigerator for about half an hour to set.

When serving, let the tart come to room temperature.  It will be easier to slice and the flavors will be stronger.  However, be warned that if you leave it out too long the ganache will start to melt and it will become quite soft and gooey – even more like a truffle filling!

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Just a Tiny Little Blip

April 10th, 2006 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

I did something last night I hadn’t done in a while: check the stats on the site.  To my surprise, I found a flurry of visits from the popular local site SFist .  Curious, I wandered over to find an article on food bloggers in SF, and, nearly at the end, a link to my cookie article!

I’m mentioning this more to say thank you to SFist for including me in their blog roundup, and to encourage you to visit some of the other fun and fascinating sites listed there.  Enjoy!

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Hong Kong Bakeries

April 9th, 2006 · 9 Comments · Sweet Spots, Travel

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Just as there seem to be an infinite number of cuisines you can taste in Hong Kong, so there is a myriad of sweets and desserts to choose from.  Both traditional-style Chinese desserts and western/European style pastries seem to be increasingly in vogue, with dessert places popping up on every street. Whether you want traditional English tea or an egg custard tart, they are easily found.

Some of my favorite places to go are the Chinese bakeries, which offer a dazzling array of Chinese-style breads and buns and western-style cream cakes.  Hong Kong people seem to prefer a very soft and fluffy white-flour bun (think barbecued pork buns), and they come with every imaginable filling, from sweet coconut to meat and cheese.  Some of the combinations like "sausage mayonnaise" or "corn and tuna" seem rather dubious, but there are also wonderful ones like red bean or curry.  And they are ridiculously cheap: usually less than a dollar a bun.  So it’s easy to stock up on a variety and see which you like best.  You will see many people in the these bakeries picking up some buns for an afternoon snack or for breakfast the next morning.

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I have to shamefully admit that I am not much of a bread baker, and I have not attempted to reproduce any of these buns.  However, if you are so inclined, there are some very detailed recipes on A La Cuisine and Tigers and Strawberries.

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Those same people might also pick up a cake in the bakery for dessert in the evening.  The Chinese have adapted the Western ideal of layered cream cakes and interpreted it to satisfy their own tastes.  Chinese generally have a less intense sweet tooth, so you will rarely see buttercream or "death by chocolate cakes" – instead, there is a marked preference for fresh fruit, light fruit-flavored mousse fillings, and whipped cream frosting.  I am also amazed at how these bakeries produce so many of these elegantly constructed cakes and sell them for so little!  Particular flavor favorites in Hong Kong are mango, mixed fruit, and chestnut.  Note: even the tiramisu has a light, fluffy texture, and the Japanese-style cheesecake, which is airier and more delicate, is also very popular.

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(Note: the prices on the tags are Hong Kong dollars; HK$12 is about US$1.50!!)

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Of course, these bakeries will also carry the famous egg custard tart or dan tat. Just like how Parisians will pride themselves on which pâtisserie they purchase their macarons from, so Hong Kong people also have their favored dan tat places.  In keeping with Hong Kong’s never-ending appetite for things new and exciting, there are now multiple versions of the dan tat to suit all tastes.  My favorite is still the classic egg custard filling in a puff pastry-like crust: the crust is traditionally made with lard, making it extraordinarily light and crisp, and wonderful contrast to the creamy rich custard.  Others prefer the more pâte sucrée-like shortcrust. The fillings, too, vary from classic to vanilla to corn-filled, as shown above in center.  The version to the right is the Portuguese version, which comes from Macau, a former Portuguese colony.  The custard top is sprinkled with sugar and it is broiled, giving it a crème brûlée-like flavor. Eating a fresh, still warm, dan tat is certainly near the top of my list of best experiences in Hong Kong.

I’m woefully behind in chronicling my Hong Kong experiences, I know.  Hopefully I’ll get them wrapped up soon!

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Cookie Mania

April 4th, 2006 · 11 Comments · Books, Cookies, Recipes

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It’s been unexpectedly and tenaciously rainy in the Bay Area, enough that by last weekend everyone seemed to have a combined case of rainy-day blues and cabin fever.  Spring’s supposed to have started – yet all that shows up in the forecasts is more grey skies.

A day at home with the rain drizzling by outside in silvery sheets – there could be no better impetus for a serious session of baking.  I’d been sadly too busy to bake much lately, and I fairly itched to pull out the baking sheets and mixing bowls again.  I made a new batch of tart dough (as my stash was all used up) for the glimmerings of projects I had planned for this week, but I really wanted to bake something right now – something quick, uncomplicated, and satisfying.

What else but cookies, whipped up in the KitchenAid, ready in an hour, to be eaten, still warm and crumbly, with a glass of milk by the window?  How perfectly cozy and tucked-in to have the home redolent of spices and butter for the weary worker coming in from the damp, chilly outside?

Accordingly, I chose the homiest, most classic of cookies for a rainy-day baking session: Snickerdoodles, fluffy and buttery-sweet, scented with sugar and cinnamon; molasses spice cookies, chewy and gingery-spicy; and for pure decadence, chocolate-chocolate chip cookies.

All the recipes came from Great Cookies by Carole Walters, a wonderful compendium of cookie recipes from around the world.  Baking notes: while cookies may seem simple compared to the multi-part creations in pâtisseries and restaurants, maintaining the same care in preparing the recipe and knowing how you like your cookies will affect the results.  I like my cookies soft and chewy, with a crispy exterior – the epitome,of course, being right-out-of-the-oven-warm, the top crust crunching delicately beneath the bite,the interior still deliciously moist. I’ve learned that taking most cookies out of the oven while they still look underdone and letting them finish on the rack will help preserve this ideal condition as long as possible: even after they have cooled down they will retain their toothsome chewiness and become nicely soft in the microwave.  Cookies that come out of the oven already hard will, sadly, only become more rock-like.  One time I did succesfully soften a batch of chocolate chip cookies that came out inexplicably hard by putting them in a plastic bag with a slice of soft bread; the cookies will absorb the moisture from the bread and become softer.  This is a common household trick for softening up baked goods that are becoming hard and stale.  However, I found it easier just to keep a closer eye on the baking cookies and pull them out before they overbake.

I’ve made many versions of these cookies; all of the recipes below call for chilling the dough for at least an hour before forming and baking.  Since the recipes seem to produce fairly soft and liquidy batters, this is an essential step, and I find chilling the dough makes it easier to handle when forming the cookies, and helps keep them uniform in shape and size.  I usually use my own judgment when determining when to pull out the dough, not to mention how impatient I am for cookies! 

Also, in such a marathon baking spree (I think I ended up with about 120 cookies, or 10 sheets’ worth), you always end up bemoaning your lack of baking sheets, cooling racks, and counter space. I ended up using all six baking sheets in the house, but if you ever find yourself short a sheet and eyeing the just-pulled one from the oven, take the baked cookies off first and run the sheet under cold water to cool it down.  Otherwise the still-hot sheet will likely cook and melt the dough balls you put on and damage the results.

all recipes adapted from Great Cookies by Carole Walters

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Snickerdoodles

makes about 40 cookies

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine the butter and vegetable shortening in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until combined and soft.  Add the sugar and mix for a couple more minutes.  Add the eggs one a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients in two additions and mix on low just until combined. Scrape the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for about an hour or until the dough is firm enough to shape.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Fill a small bowl with combination of 1 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon.  Take the dough out of the refrigerator.  Using your hands, take a piece of dough and roll in your hands to form an approximately 1-inch ball.  Roll the ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until thoroughly coated and place on the baking sheet. Place the balls about 3 inches apart on the sheets. It is also a good idea to stagger the rows so the cookies have the most room to spread out.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until they have flattened out and browned slightly, and the tops have cracked. Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking.  Remove the cookies from the oven and place sheets on cooling racks for several minutes until they have firmed up, then transfer cookies directly to the racks to finish cooling.

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Molasses Spice Cookies

makes about 40 cookies

3/4 cup butter

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 large egg

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat; let cool. (The batter will be mixed in this saucepan).

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves together in a bowl. Set aside.

Stir the sugar, molasses, and egg into the butter with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Add the dry ingredients in two additions and mix until combined. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour or until dough is firm enough to shape.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Fill a small bowl with sugar for covering the dough balls.  Take the dough out of the refrigerator.  Using your hands, take a piece of dough and roll in your hands to form an approximately 1-inch ball.  Roll the ball in the sugar until thoroughly coated and place on the baking sheet. Place the balls about 3 inches apart on the sheets. It is also a good idea to stagger the rows so the cookies have the most room to spread out.

Bake for about 9 minutes or until they have flattened out and browned slightly, and the tops have cracked. Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking.  Remove the cookies from the oven and place sheets on cooling racks for several minutes until they have firmed up, then transfer cookies directly to the racks to finish cooling.

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Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies

makes about 40 cookies

8 ounces of bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used Callebaut), chopped

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup (about 4 oz) dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons hot water

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into chunks

Melt the 8 ounces of chocolate in a double boiler or in a bowl set over boiling water. Keep warm.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine the butter in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy and soft.  Add the sugar, then the brown sugar, and mix for a couple more minutes.  Add the eggs one a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the melted chocolate, then the hot water, and then the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients in two additions and mix on low just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks with a rubber spatula. Scrape the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for about an hour or until the dough is firm enough to shape.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Take the dough out of the refrigerator.  Using your hands, take a piece of dough and roll in your hands to form an approximately 1-inch ball.  Place the balls on the baking sheet about 3 inches apart on the sheets. It is also a good idea to stagger the rows so the cookies have the most room to spread out.

Bake for about 10 minutes (they will look slightly underdone). Rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking.  Remove the cookies from the oven and place sheets on cooling racks for several minutes until they have firmed up, then transfer cookies directly to the racks to finish cooling.

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