Archive for the 'cookies & biscuits' Category

07
Sep
12

Walnut and Valerian Biscotti (Baked)

[Equipment: convection oven for slow baking, baking tray with silicone mat. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths.]

Note: This cookie contains a medicinal ingredient: valerian root. Please research any concerns about the ingredient before making this recipe.

These relaxing cookies get their mild but noticeable tranquilizing effect from homemade valerian root oil. Valerian has a bitter taste, so I played with the bitterness by adding complementary flavors of brown sugar, walnuts and coffee. Baking soda offsets some of the acidity, for a cookie that tastes very smooth. The sedating effect is truly mild for me, and I could eat them all day. However, anyone not familiar with valerian root should consume them cautiously.

My local market sells solid valerian root, which is very hard – like wood – and cannot be cut with a knife. For the oil infusion, I snipped off small chunks of it with a set of wire cutters, the kind sold in hardware stores. The same amount (2 grams) of powdered valerian root could be infused more easily, and could be added to the cookie dough after infusion with the risk of more bitter cookie. Choose a bland oil (I had canola) to avoid any off flavors. The infusion time should be at least 24 hours at 115°F/46.1°C.

The infusion could be heated in an oven, a dehydrator, on an insulated incense burner, even in a box heated with an incandescent bulb, but keep the temperature no higher to preserve the efficacy of the valerian essences.

Makes 10 cookies
– 117 calories per cookie
– Oven Temperature: 250°F/121°C

Biscotti:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon valerian oil (see text and see below)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 packets sucralose (equal to about 3 tablespoons sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or other nuts)

Valerian Oil:

  • 2 grams valerian root or valerian powder
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Valerian Oil Method:


1. If using valerian root, weigh out 2 grams. With mini clippers, break up the root by snipping off small chunks. If using valerian powder, measure out 2 grams of powder.

2. In a small heatproof dish, mix the root pieces with the vegetable oil. Cover the dish with heat-resistant plastic wrap.

3. Heat the oil over an insulated incense burner or put the dish in a low oven for at least 24 hours. In either case, the temperature of the oil should rise no higher than 115°F/46°C. Check it occasionally with a thermometer. Use immediately or store until ready to use.

Biscotti Method:

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder until well combined.

2. In a small bowl, mix the egg, brown sugar, sucralose, valerian oil, vanilla and water until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

3. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix to form a stiff dough.

4. Add walnuts and knead into the dough.

5. Transfer the dough to a baking mat. Shape into flat log about 9.5 x 3 inches.

6. Bake at 250°F/121°C for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden.

7. With a serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1-inch cookies. Place the cookies on the baking mat, one cut side facing up. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn cookies over so that other cut side faces up. Bake for another 15 minutes.

8. Let cool and serve or store in an airtight container.

03
May
12

Rooibos Hazelnut Spread Cookies (Dehydrated)

A semi-raw cookie with 5-ingredients with a nice balance of flavors. The powdered Rooibos tea comes from a Rooibos teabag. Bosc pears tend to be drier than other pears. Pureeing the Bosc pear adds just enough moisture to bind the dough, but is mild in taste and doesn’t overpower the tea. I tried doubling the amount of Rooibos to 2 teaspoons (the entire teabag), but felt the acidic balance tipped against the chocolate. If increasing the amount of tea for stronger Rooibos flavor, I would add a bit of sugar in the pear mixture to blunt the sharpness.

The store-bought chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella or equivalent) isn’t raw, but I’ve seen recipes for a raw version that could probably work as a substitute. I shaped the cookies by pressing the dough level into a tablespoon measure and gently prying them loose with same skewer for perforating the cookies (the perforations speed drying time). At the given dehydration temperature and drying times, the cookies bake up soft on the inside.

Makes 16 cookies
– 50 calories per cookie
– Oven Temperature: 125ºF/51.7ºC

  • 1 cup oat flour (coarsely ground – see text)
  • 1 teaspoon powdered Rooibos tea
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut chocolate spread
  • 1 medium bosc pear (3.5 oz)
  • pinch salt

1. In a small bowl of a food processor, finely chop 1 Bosc pear.


2. Add the Rooibos tea, hazelnut spread and salt. Process until smooth.


3. Add wet ingredients to oat flour. Mix to form a dough. Let dough rest for 5 minutes to solidify to consistency of wet clay. If dough is too soft to hold its shape, mix in 1 or 2 tablespoons of oat flour and let rest another 5 minutes.

4. Form cookies from 1 level tablespoon of dough and place on lined dehydrator tray or a nonstick baking sheet for oven dehydration. Perforate each cookie with a 1/8-inch skewer 4 times.

5. Dehydrate at 125ºF/51.7ºC for 2 hours. Top surface of cookies should feel dry and crisp.

6. Turn cookies over. Dehydrate for another 2 hours.


7. Cool and serve.

18
Mar
12

Apricot Chamomile Scones (Dehydrated, Low Sugar/Fat)

[ Equipment: food dehyrator or low-temperature-capable convection oven, an 8-inch round cake pan. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths. ]

After my dehydrated lavender brownies, I wanted to try a dehydrated pastry with a denser, more crumbly texture. Once again, I thought about using the dough from one of the dehydrated cookie recipes, but even a spoonful of that dough without the solid leavener contains enough calories to wreck a healthy eating habit. A regular blueberry scone from Starbucks coffee house weighs in at 120 grams and 460 calories. An equivalent weight apricot chamomile scone from this recipe contains 384 calories. Neither scone would qualify exactly as diet food, but the apricot scones have a lovely soft texture, with lots of raw grain (if made with raw oat flour) and fruits, with a surprising sweetness that really satisfies.

Apricots and chamomile complement each other’s flavors, both mild and sweet. The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of chamomile flowers. These are the whole flowers for a strong cup of tea. I made the coconut flour by coarsely grinding dried, unsweetened coconut flakes in a food processor. The coarse grind gives a crumbly texture to the dough, reminiscent of a baked scone. The sugar is a blend of regular brown sugar and sucralose. An equivalent amount of regular white sugar or powdered sucralose (packets) should work just as well as the specified granulated version. The rice squares function as a solid leavener and help aerate the dough and build volume. They’re totally optional, because the scones are delicious without them.

Makes 8 scones (approx. 80 gr. each)
– 240 calories per scone
– Oven Temperature: 125°F/51.7°C

  • 8 dried apricots
  • 2 heaping teaspoons chamomile flowers or 2 chamomille teabags
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups oat flour (coarsely ground – see text)
  • 1 cup coconut flour (coarsely ground – see text)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sucralose or sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rice squares cereal (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins

1. In a small bowl, infuse chamomile in the boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Add apricots and soak for about an hour.

2. Remove apricots. Drain liquid, discarding chamomile flowers. Set aside apricots and liquid.

3. In a large bowl, mix the oat flour and coconut flour until well combined.

4. In a small food processor bowl or hand blender cup, puree the apricots, egg white and chamomile tea.

5. Add sucralose and brown sugar and blend.

6. Add vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt and blend until smooth.

7. Pour liquid mixture into flour mixture and mix until thoroughly moistened.

8. Add raisins and mix.

9. Add rice squares cereal and gently mix until well combined. Try not to crush the cereal.

10. Pat the dough into an 8-inch cake pan. Perforate the dough by pressing a 1/8-inch skewer all the way down into the dough at 1/2-inch intervals.

11. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about 30 minutes.

12.  Bake at 150°F/65.5°C for 30 minutes. Then reduce temperature to 125°F/51.7°C and continue baking for 3 hours.

13. Invert scones onto a cookie sheet with a baking mat. Perforate the dough again at 1/2-inch intervals.

14. Bake at 125°F/51.7°C for another 3 hours.

15. Slice scones into 8 wedges and serve.

15
Dec
11

Appliance Review: LTB In A Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven

[ Equipment: digital convection oven, cookie sheet, 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 (inch) loaf pan, 8 inch square cake pan. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

Until now, all the slow-baked pastries I’ve made have been 7 inches or less in diameter, the maximum size that will fit in my temperature-controlled slow-cooker oven. When I resolved to try making them in standard size pans (8 inch or larger rounds and squares), I ordered a digital convection toaster oven (a Cuisinart CTO-395 with Exact Heat sensor) for these bigger jobs. The CTO-395’s 0.6cu capacity sits somewhere between a regular toaster oven and a full-size counter-top oven.

The circulating heat and top/bottom heating elements not only bake food faster but also more consistently, even at 250°F/121°C. General LTB recipe guidelines still apply, however, and the convection feature does reduce baking time. The CTO-395 dehydrates foods very quickly too. With a second baking rack, I’d be able to dry two trays of food at once. Cuisinart sells extra racks for $14 each.

The digital thermostat keeps the temperature fairly stable (no more fidgeting with the heat dial), but I continue to monitor it with a thermometer. Since this toaster oven consumes around 1800 watts, it’s not even close to matching a slow cooker for energy efficiency. For large scale LTB baking (entertaining) and recipe testing, it’s my appliance of choice. Prices for digital counter-top ovens have fallen drastically. many going for less than $100 US. I’ve seen the Cuisinart CTO-395 on sale for less than the price of a high-end plain bread toaster.

Below are the results of some of my tests baking and dehydrating with the convection oven. With the exception of the banana chips, the tests were run with prepared mixes and doughs from my local market, so I could get some idea of how well convection ovens bake at low temperature. All required some modification to the instructions or to the mix for good turnouts.

First up is Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix, which I made into a cake in an 8-inch square pan, following instructions on the box.

The picture above shows slices from two Jiffy cakes, one baked at 375°F/190°C on the left and the other at 250°F/121°C. The high temperature one rose higher and fluffier, but was dry, virtually tasteless, almost like eating cotton. The Jiffy mix contains artificial blueberries, which apparently lose their aroma and flavor when baked at high temperature. The 250°F cake retained the blueberry flavor, had a moist, dense texture, and I could also taste the eggs.

To boost the LTB cake’s height, I added 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the mix. That cake rose higher in the oven, but collapsed, because the center didn’t heat up fast enough. In the picture above, I covered the pan with aluminum foil and cut out a 4-inch hole so that the batter in the center would bake faster.

This picture compares two Jiffy cakes baked at 250°F/121°C for 35 minutes (about 60% more time than at 375°F/190°C). The top one is the plain mix, baked in an uncovered pan. The second one contains the extra baking powder and was baked in the foil-covered pan as described in the preceding paragraph. It rose to the same height as the high temperature cake with similar browning on the edges.

The texture of the second cake is as fluffy as the high temperature but with stronger blueberry and egg flavor.

Next trial was Nestle Toll House prepared cookie dough. Out of the package, the dough is scored into 12 chunks for 12 “big” cookies.

The instructions said to break off pieces of the dough and place them on the baking sheet. To help the cookies bake faster, I flattened the chunks into 2-inch disks.

The recommended oven temperature was 325°F/163°C for about 10-15 minutes. I baked them at 250°F/121°C for about 15-20 minutes until the edges were a light golden color.

In the pictures, I only made a batch of 3 cookies, but the baking sheet (a 10-inch sheet from Wilton) could accommodate 4 of them, and up to 6 cookies with careful placement. Each chunk of dough spread out into a 3-1/4 inch cookie. LTB Toll House cookies fresh from the oven: such intense chocolate, milk and molasses flavors that one cookie satisfies like a whole box of the regular kind.

The oven can fit a 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inch loaf pan, so I made a chocolate banana loaf cake from a Betty Crocker chocolate cake (devil’s food) mix. For the one in these pictures, I measured out half of the mix by weight (approximately 9.5 oz). Then I added 1 egg, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/3 cup mashed banana and about 1/2 cup water. The batter was a little thicker than as prepared by the box instructions. The baking powder helped boost the rise, and the reduction in overall hydration balanced texture vs. baking time.

Because the center of a loaf cake heats up slowly, I covered the pan with foil and cut out a hole leaving about a 1-inch foil border around the edge. The foil border is meant to mediate over-baking at the edges of the cake, while exposing the center to maximum heat and vapor dispersion.

Baked at 250°F/121°C for about 1 hour, the cake more than doubled in height. In the future, I might try 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder instead, because the center sank a little, which sometimes happens when there is too much leavening.

Although it it contains just 1/3 cup of mashed banana pulp, the banana flavor really stands out in the moist chocolate cake.

Because convection ovens circulate hot air with a fan, I expected them to be very effective food dehydrators. For the the last test, I made banana chips on the 2-piece broiling pan that came with the oven. Perforations in the top section of the pan let air circulate around the food, and the bottom section (drip pan) holds the top up to avoid scorching from the heating elements.

So that the banana chips don’t stick to the pan, I greased the perforated section with vegetable oil. I laid out 1/4-inch thick slices on the pan, positioning every slice over 1 or more holes. I didn’t treat the slices with any preservative. They turned brown a little as they dried.


The lowest settable temperature in my Cuisinart oven is 150°F/65°C, too high for drying fruits and vegetables without damaging beneficial enzymes. I propped the oven door open with a crumpled piece of foil, just enough to keep the temperature steady around 110-120°F/43-49°C.

About 5 hours later, the slices had deflated into chips. They were still soft. I peeled them off the pan, loosening them by sliding the blade of a plastic knife underneath, and dropped them into bowl lined with a paper towel. A few more hours of air-drying hardened the chips.

22
Feb
11

Pineapple Teriyaki Jerky Biscuits (Dehydrated)

[ Equipment: oven or food dehydrator. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

The inspiration for these chewy, crunchy, savory biscuits is the stir-fry classic: pineapple teriyaki beef. For the teriyaki beef, I mix in finely shredded teriyaki flavor beef jerky. The dried pineapple chunks add notes of sweet and sour. I balance the sweet binder of honey and peanut butter with salty bouillon powder that intensifies the jerky flavor with beef broth seasonings. The biscuits get their lift and crunch from puffed kamut. For vegetarians, non-meat alternatives can stand in for the jerky and bouillon.

For a long time I wondered if I could do a raw recipe with jerky, because exposure to moisture can ruin the dessicated meat. In my research online, I discovered a trail food called pemmican, a mixture of powdered dried meat in melted suet or tallow, made and carried by native Americans on long trips. As it solidified, the fat sealed the meat from moisture and extended freshness for anywhere from months to years.

In these biscuits, the tallow has been replaced with peanut butter loosened with honey, and the beef jerky has been coarsely ground into bits, but not a fine powder. The online search engines enumerated several brands of teriyaki beef jerky; my local market stocked the Oberto teriyaki jerky. I’ve read in the Amazon.com reviews that Oberto jerky can be a little dry for eating, but that’s not a problem for this recipe. Of course, the  jerky could be homemade instead of store bought – lots of recipes online. The key ingredients in the Oberto teriyaki are beef, soy sauce and brown sugar. A faux vegetarian jerky could work in these biscuits too.

While jerky can be cut with a knife, it’s too fibrous to chop easily with a knife. Instead, I grind it in a spice grinder. The chopped jerky should have the appearance of small shreds of dried meat. Do not grind it into a powder. If the pieces are too large, the texture of the biscuits will go from chewy to tough.

Peanut butter contains oil, not water. Honey has a small amount of water, but the high concentration of sugar acts as a preservative. The peanut butter-honey binder will not encourage bacterial growth in the jerky. However, these biscuits should not be stored in the cupboard for years. Over time, the puffed kamut could sop up moisture in the air and wet the jerky. Keep the biscuits in an airtight container and eat them within a few weeks.

The puffed kamut cereal functions as the solid leavening, aerating the dough and providing structure and crunch. It’s almost tasteless in this application and won’t compete with the other flavors in the biscuits. For substitutes, I’d try puffed wheat, puffed rice or puffed millet. The kamut grains are huge compared to rice or millet. Puffed kamut grains can measure up to 1 inch long. I lightly crush (or break in half between fingers) the kamut to reduce the grain size to about 3/8 inch before mixing it into the batter. Puffed rice or millet could be mixed in as-is.

I made my own bouillon powder by crushing a beef bouillon cube with a pestle. It can be purchased in powder form too. For a meatless alternative, try a vegetarian version. Make sure to tamp out any lumps, or the flavors won’t mix evenly and the biscuits may turn out gritty. The recipe specifies 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of powder, because the seasoning varies by brand (the recipe was tested with Hormel’s HerbOx). I recommend making the biscuits with 1/2 teaspoon first to check the balance of sweet-salty and flavorings. Also, more bouillon powder darkens the dough slightly.

Makes 8 biscuits
– 85 calories per biscuit
– Oven Temperature: 120°F/49°C

  • 1/4 cup almond meal or almond flour
  • 1/4 cup lightly crushed, puffed kamut cereal (see text)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon beef bouillon powder or vegetable bouillon powder (see text)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped, teriyaki-style beef jerky (0.6 oz) or vegetarian jerky (see text)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, dried pineapple


1. In a small dish, thoroughly mix the honey and bouillon powder. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, mix the almond meal, chopped jerky and chopped dried pineapple.

3. Stir the peanut butter into the honey-bouillon.

4. Add the peanut butter-honey binder to the jerky and thoroughly mix into a paste.

5. Gently fold/press in the puffed kamut.

6. Form the dough into a disk and divide the disk into 4 sections.

Note: Steps 7 and 8 prepare the biscuits for dehdyrating in my Presto Chango dehydrator assembled with a 9-inch heating area. For drying in a commercial food dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

8. Turn an 8-inch cake pan upside down and sprinkle with 2 or 3 drops of water. To make a liner for the dehydrator, cut out an 8-inch circle of wax paper with a 1-inch center hole. Place it down on the cake pan and press. The water drops will temporarily glue the wax paper to the pan.

Divide each quarter portion of dough in half and form each half into a 2-inch biscuit (8 biscuits total). Arrange the biscuits on the wax paper liner.

9. Transfer the liner with biscuits to the dehydrator’s drying tray and complete assembly of the dehydrator.

10. Dehydrate the biscuits at 120°F/49°C for 12 to 24 hours, turning them over at the halfway mark. That 24 hour range is not an exaggeration. They dry very slowly. When ready, the biscuits will feel firm and dry on all surfaces, keeping their shape when handled.

11. Remove the biscuits from the dehydrator and cool them on a rack at room temperature for an hour or two. As they cool, they will crisp up slightly. Serve or store in an airtight container.

19
Dec
10

Papaya-Chocolate-Filled Krispy Bonbon Cookies (Dehydrated)

[ Equipment: Food dehydrator or dehydration oven. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

The inspiration for these cookies was the classic Rice Krispies Treats. They’re molded and baked in a dehydration oven for a dry, crisp texture, very different from the sticky, gooey, greasy feel of old-time, pan-cut Treats squares. Ground almonds give body to the porous rice cereal cookie dough. The center filling is a fused sandwich of papaya and chocolate, a less common yet very delicious mix of flavors. Chocolate piping dresses the cookies up for company.

To make the filling, thin strips of dried papaya are wrapped around a chocolate chip, a variation of the technique for making the date-wrapped chips in my Black Sugar Trifecta cookies. As the cookies bake, the heat melts the chocolate into a layer between the papaya. Fruit leather strips would be an excellent substitute for the papaya. In fact, any number of solid fillings would be excellent in these cookies. A moister filling, such as a mix of peanut butter and chips or peanut butter and nuts, could work. Fillings that are too moist might impede the drying process. Of the fillings I’ve tried, I made one batch filled with a 1/4 teaspoon of mini chocolate chips, and another batch filled with date-wrapped chips. Candied nuts are up next on my checklist.

The standard substitute for marshmallow creme is marshmallows melted with a small amount of corn syrup, but there are recipes that allow for a direct substitution of marshmallows for marshmallow creme. Since marshmallows are solid at room temperature, a marshmallow binder might set too quickly. As an alternative to corn syrup, a pat of butter melted with the marshmallows might help lengthen the set time. I don’t give exact amounts here because I haven’t made this substitution yet.

Makes 8 cookies
– 70 calories per cookie
– Oven Temperature: 120-130°F/49-54°C in a dehydrator

Cookies

  • 1 cup puffed rice cereal
  • 4 tablespoons marshmallow creme
  • 1/2 tablespoon light agave syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup finely ground almonds or almond meal

Papaya-Chocolate Filling

  • 2 dried papaya spears
  • 8 regular size chocolate chips

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 oz. Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bar

Chocolate-Papaya Filling Method:

1. Slice papaya spears into 8 strips about 3/4 x 1-1/2 x 1/16 (inch) strips.

2. Press the pointy tip of a chocolate chip into one end of a strip.

3. Fold the other end of the papaya strip over the chip to form a pocket and press down on the edges to seal the pocket.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the remaining chips.

Chocolate Glaze Method:

Note: Prepare the melted chocolate after the cookies have finished baking and cooled.

1. Chill chocolate bar until hard and break or slice off 1 oz. of chocolate. The picture above shows 1 oz. of pieces from a Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bar.

2. Slice or chop chocolate into slivers and place in heatproof dish.

3. In a microwave, heat chocolate on HIGH power for 20 to 30 seconds and stir. Repeat heat-stir until chocolate is melted and smooth (about 2 minutes). Alternatively, melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler.

4. Fold a square of wax paper (about 6 x 6 inches) into a small piping bag and fill with melted chocolate. The bag should have a tip hole that extrudes a 1/8-inch line of chocolate. If necessary, enlarge the hole by snipping the tip with scissors.

Cookies Method:

Note: The cookies shown below were baked in my homemade Presto Chango dehydration oven. The instructions may need to be modified to work with commercial food dehydrators.

1. Put ground almonds, marshmallow creme, vanilla and almond extracts, and the agave syrup in a heatproof bowl.

2. Microwave the mixture on HIGH for about 30 seconds until the marshmallow creme has just liquified. Stir to combine ingredients.

3. Add puffed rice cereal and gently stir until evenly coated with the marshmallow creme.

4. With a greased spoon, fill half of a greased 1/8-cup-capacity ice cream scoop with the puffed rice, pressing a slight indentation in the center.

5. Place a  papaya-wrapped chip in the center.

6. Fill the scoop to level with more puffed rice mix. With the back of the greased spoon, gently press down on the puffed rice to compact it (without crushing the rice).

7. Release the cookie from the scoop onto a greased dehydrator liner. The one in the picture was cut from wax paper, 8 inches in diameter with a 1/2-inch center hole to facilitate heat flow.

8. Repeat steps 4 to 7 to make a total of 8 cookies.

9. Transfer the cookies (with liner) to the dehydrator. Dehydrate at 120°F/49°C for 6 to 8 hours or until the cookies feel dry to the touch and hold their shape when lifted up. A higher dehydration temperature will reduce drying time, but risk damaging the enzymes in the raw ingredients.

10. Let cool thoroughly. If desired, pipe or spread melted chocolate over cookies.

03
Nov
10

Black-Sugar Trifecta, Wrapped Chip Cookies (Twice-Baked)

[ Equipment: oven and dehydrator or slow cooker with temperature control. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

With the year-end holidays approaching, I thought it appropriate to post a recipe for a VaporBaker chocolate chip cookie (not counting the Chocolate Almond Meringue Spiral Cookies, which are really incognito macarons). After several weeks of recipe testing, these cookies didn’t turn out as simple as originally intended, but they are made of everyday ingredients – none of them new to the world of chocolate chippers – revived through the techniques of ingredient construction. Each chipper presents jumble of textures and flavors: by turns soft, crisp, moist, sandy, candy crunchy and chewy, perfumed with exotic flavors, faintly fruity, faintly smokey, with bursts of chocolate, the interaction among chocolate dates and apricots, harvest oatmeal, walnuts and intensified black sugar and all capped with a pebbly crust of spicy black-vanilla white sugar.

An explanation of the title: the “wrapped chips” refer to individual chocolate chips stuffed in a date surround. “Trifecta” refers to the trifold composition and purposes of the black sugar. The sugar is forged from 3 ingredients: natural dark brown sugar, molasses and dates, and deployed in 3 ways: as a primary sweetener, a binder for the granola and as a flavorful topping.

These are twice-baked cookies, once in a slow oven and once in a dehydration oven, like a biscotti but more delicate, a wonderful eating experience. My only regret is that they are so labor intensive I cannot make them too often. The prep time for the dough alone from scratch demands 2 days (a lot of it is waiting time). Plus, oven time (first and second bakings) can stretch up to a full day more.

Speaking of black sugar, the actual flavor inspiration for this recipe came from a vintage recipe for chocolate caramels, first published in 1881. It was reprinted in the New York Times Recipe Redux column in February 2010. The 6 ingredients (butter, chopped chocolate, milk, sugar, vanilla and molasses) are same for basic chocolate chip cookies, minus the flour and egg. The chefs in that column re-imagined the ingredients into a dessert called Black-Sugar-Glazed Medjool Dates With Pecorino and Walnuts. It was the discussion of these recipes that got me to thinking about ways to incorporate black sugar into a chocolate chip cookie.

I approached this recipe as an opportunity to make a different chocolate chip cookie with ordinary cookie ingredients, but constructed into various forms for the different flavors and textures. The concept is: the whole is different from the sum of its parts. For example, the dehydrated molasses sugar (an intermediate step in the making of black sugar) tastes something like Chinese block sugar (an unrefined sugar), not the same as before dehydration. Another constructed ingredient is the black-sugar granola, which is dried until rock-hard to resist blending into the dough. I wanted granola chunks in the cookie, not oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. The wrapped chips explode a chocolate and date medley when chewed, distinct from the free-floating chips in the cookie. Constructive activity tallies the prep time, but changes ordinary ingredients into new foods.

The Constructed Ingredients and Substitutions

The powdered black sugar, black sugar granola and date sugar are all fabricated with the help of a food dehydrator or dehydration oven set at around 130°F. The temperature is higher than my usual limit of 120°F. However, the cookies slow-bake anyway at 250°F, and the higher drying temperature balances preservation of flavors with expeditiousness.

The base ingredients for the black sugar (dark brown sugar, molasses and date sugar) should be of high quality. Pure cane dark brown sugar is said to be brown all the way through (as opposed to being white sugar lightly coated in molasses). I bought an unsulphured “first” molasses (Grandma’s brand) for my food bin, but stronger unsulphured grades would be fine too. I made date sugar by dehydrating and grounding dried Deglet Noor dates (also sold in markets near me as “California dates”). Medjools taste sweeter, but their higher water content would mean more time in the dehydrator. In general, dried dates for eating would turn to paste in a grinder, and must be dehydrated before grinding into date sugar.

Although sugar of one form or another pops up everywhere in the cookies (the “trifecta” of black sugar), they’re only mildly sweet, which is my taste preference. In earlier batches, I did feel a need for more punch in the sweetness. Towards that goal, I mix a small amount of white vanilla sugar into the topping (1 to 1 ratio with the black sugar) and sprinkle over the cookies before baking. The topping method adds the white sugar punch with fewer calories.

The granola should be dry and very pebbly, about 1/4 to 3/8-inch chunks, so that they hold onto their individual character when mixed into the cookie dough. To construct the granola with a robust binder that doesn’t crumble when mixed into dough, I add almond meal, which  combines with the molasses to form a paste that dries into a granola mortar. The recipe makes about 3/4 cup. 1/2 cup goes into the dough. I munch on the remaining 1/4 cup while making the cookies.

I make the wrapped chips by stuffing dates with chocolate chips and slicing them into individually wrapped chips. Again, I prefer the Deglet Noor dates, being smaller and drier, to the Medjools for this purpose. Dates that were pitted without splitting hold the chips more securely. Although Medjool-wrapped chips would be very tasty too, and sweeter, the chips don’t fit snuggly into those larger fruits.

The long and involved preparation of the constructed ingredients for these cookies can be a trial of patience (it has been for me), but there are good shortcuts. A mixture of commercial dark sugars, such as a granulated dark muscovado and prepared date sugars, ground to powder, would be a fine substitute for the composite black sugar. However, few American markets stock them. Where they are available, they are usually too wet and must be dried out for a few hours. The homemade black sugar has a higher concentration of molasses than dark muscovado (25% vs. 13% if my math is correct), so the substitutions may not taste as intense.

There are a very few commercial molasses granolas, but none that I could find with only apricots. A fruitless molasses granola or granola cereal, enhanced with chopped apricots, would be a good substitute for the homemade black-sugar granola. Packaged date sugar is more widely available. If the date sugar is coarsely ground, it should be re-ground to a fine powder.

I introduced the homemade baker’s 5-spice blend in my 5-spice oatmeal cran-raisin cookies. Substitute with Penzey’s baking spice. Some of these conveniences are a tiny bit pricey. Date sugar sells around $5 US per pound. Dark muscovado sugar can run from $5 to $10 US per pound.

Other Ingredients and Baking Tips

The apple fiber aids with moisture retention in the cookie and adds fruity tones and even dietary fiber, but does not significantly hydrate the dough as applesauce would. Although the cookies are twice-baked, the apple fiber holds onto a wisps of moisture over the course of the second baking, for a barely-there inner softness. With extreme drying from the second baking, however, the cookies assume a candy-like crunch, to which the apple fiber definitely contributes. The apple fiber is separated from applesauce by draining the juice. Dehydrating the applesauce would leave the fiber with overly-assertive apple flavor.

Coffee bean powder is canned ground coffee (I used a Folger’s medium roast) that’s been further ground in a coffee grinder into a VERY fine powder. It must be VERY fine, or the cookies will taste gritty. In this recipe, the coffee bean powder enhances the flavor of the chocolate chips and the black sugar. Espresso powder (which is brewed, dried and then bottled coffee grinds) will also work.

Be careful not to overbake the cookies (they overbake very easily), because the heat can harm the delicate flavors, not to mention the overpowering taste of burnt dough. In the first baking, the cookies are ready when the edges touching the sides of the pan are LIGHTLY brown. They emerge from the first baking a little cakey and moist. They can be served after the first baking, but (in my opinion) attain apotheosis after the second baking, when the crisper delicate texture unveils the subtler flavors.

The second baking takes place under dehydration temperatures because the cookies will burn if they continue to bake in a slow oven and because dehydration preserves flavors. I specify a dehydration temperature range of 120 to 140°F (49 to 60°C). Although most of the enzymes in the ingredients have been deactivated during the slow-baking, flavors are still temperature sensitive. Just-moist cookies (hard on the outside, softer on the inside) are delicious, but I adore them very brittle-crisp or “bone dry” (dried for about 20 hours at 140°F/60°C). Anticipate this second baking to last anywhere from several hours to almost a full day.

The 16 cookie yield may seem to be a stretch, but somehow it feels right. Each 1/16th of the pan biscuit tastes like a full cookie in its own right: packed with flavor and is a satisfying taste experience. I feel this to be true each time I eat one.

Makes 16 cookies
– 90 calories per cookie
– Oven Temperature: 250°F/121°C

Cookies:

  • 1/4 cup powdered black sugar (see below)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons apple fiber (see text)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 beaten egg (2 tablespoons)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder (see text)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coffee bean powder (see text)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baker’s 5-spice (see text)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup black sugar granola (see below)

Topping:

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black sugar (see below)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baker’s 5-spice

Powdered Black Sugar (makes about 3/8 cup):

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
  • 4 dried dates, chopped (see below)

Apple Fiber (makes about 2 teaspoons):

  • 1/8 cup unsweetened applesauce

Date Wrapped Chocolate Chips (makes 21):

  • 7 dried dates (Deglet Noor, about 1-1/2 inches in size – see text)
  • 21 regular-size chocolate chips

Black Sugar Apricot Granola (makes about 2/3 cup):

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground almonds or almond meal
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, dried apricot (about 3 dried apricots)
  • 3-1/2 teaspoons unsulphured molasses
  • 1/8 teaspoon baker’s 5-spice

Powdered Black Sugar Method:

1. Put brown sugar and molasses in a small bowl and toss-mix with a fork, breaking up any lumps. The texture of the sugar should be very granular.

2. Dehydrate the sugar for 12 hours at 130°F/54°C until completely dry. In a commercial dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In a converted slow-cooker with temperature control, pour the granola into a wide, greased bowl and spread it out. Place the bowl in the cooker on a trivet.

3. To speed up the drying, every 3 hours, remove from dehydrator and gently pound the sugar flat with pestle to crush the sugar crystals. Then fluff it with a fork. Replace in dehydrator and continue drying. The sugar is ready when the surface has lightened and hardened. If the air is very humid, it may take more time in the dehydrator to reach this stage.

4. Unless the chopped dates are rock hard, they contain excess water and will grind to a paste. Dehydrate them for 24 hours at 130°F/54°C until completely dry. With a commercial dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In a converted slow-cooker with temperature control, put the chopped dates in a small pan or dish and place on a trivet in the cooker. The dates and molasses sugar can be dehydrated together at the same time, in the same cooker.

4. Break up the hardened molasses sugar into small chunks. Put the molasses sugar in a coffee or spice grinder with the dried dates. Grind until the mixture is a fine powder.

5. Store in an airtight container until ready for use.

Black Sugar Apricot Granola Method:

1. Mix oats, walnuts, apricots and almond meal in a small bowl.

2. Mix in molasses until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.

5. Pour into a greased dish. Dehydrate the granola for about 8 hours at 130°F/54°C or until granola is completely dried and hard. For a commercial dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. For a converted slow-cooker with temperature control, transfer the granola to a wide dish and spread it out to dry faster. Put a trivet in the cooker and sit the dish on it.

6. GENTLY break granola into large chunks. Store granola in an airtight container until ready to use.

Wrapped Chips Method:

1. Stuff each date with chocolate chips. I can usually fit 3 chips per date. In the picture above, the dates were sold already slit along the side. Try and get dates that are not slit, because they will hold the chips more securely.

2. Slice the dates into individual date-wrapped chips.

Apple Fiber Method:

1. Line a small sieve with two layers of paper towels. Spread the applesauce over the towels and allow to drain for about 1 hour.

2. Fold up the towels around the applesauce and GENTLY squeeze out any excess juice in the applesauce.

3. Open the towels and scape out the apple fiber with a spoon. With my brand of applesauce, 1/8 cup of applesauce reduced to about 2 teaspoons of apple fiber.

Cookie Method:

1. In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, baker’s 5-spice, coffee bean powder, lemon zest and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, cream softened butter and granulated black sugar with a fork until well combined.

3. Add 2 tablespoons of beaten egg, vanilla extract and apple fiber and beat until light and fluffy.

4. Add flour in portions, mixing with the whisk and then a wood spoon and then kneading (if necessary) in the final portions of flour to form a SOFT, non-sticky dough. If needed, add 1 or 2 teaspoons more flour to achieve a good consistency.

5. Grease a 7-inch springform pan or cake pan with removable bottom. Cut out a 7-inch diameter circle from wax paper or parchment paper and place in bottom of pan. Grease the top of the paper.

6. Divide the dough in half. Break off pieces from one portion of the dough, and pat them evenly onto bottom of pan.

7. Break granola into chunks to about 1/4-inch or a little larger and sprinkle evenly over the dough – but leave an area at the center clear (a circle of about 1-inch diameter) for easier cutting later. Then sprinkle the wrapped chocolate chips and 2 teaspoons of the mini chocolate chips evenly over the dough – again leave the area at the center clear. Gently press the granola and chips into the dough. Be careful not to crush the granola or unwrap the chocolate chips, so that they retain their individual characteristics within the cookie.

8. Break off pieces from the remaining portion of dough, and distribute them evenly in the pan.

9. Press the dough pieces flat to completely cover the granola and chips. Allow some of the granola and chips to peek through the dough top layer.

10. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of mini chocolate chips over the dough and press them slightly into the dough to secure them. Then mix the topping ingredients in a small dish and sprinkle evenly over the top of the dough.


11. Score the dough with a knife or flat-bladed dough scraper into 16 wedges. The scoring should go through the thickness of the dough. Cut templates from wax paper to aid accurate scoring.

12. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or just until the edges touching the pan are a VERY light golden brown. Do NOT overbake or the cookies will have a burnt taste. Cool for 10 minutes in pan. Unmold and continue cooling on a rack. With a knife, press down into score marks on the cookies to separate them.

10. For the second baking, put the cookies in a food dehydrator or dehydration oven set in the range of 120 to 140°F (49 to 60°C) and dry them for several hours or overnight until they are crisp and crumbly or to desired degree of crispness.