Drumroll please…. introducing Mint Madness!!

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I know it seems like we’re constantly apologizing here at Two PhDs, and yet again here I am, apologizing. I am a very slow writer/ blogger, and I have really awesome excuses for my tardiness, but they are dumb: we moved to a new apartment, and then we got a kitten who demands my attention at all times. But really I’d rather be playing with a kitten than writing a blog post. So there!

photo (4)I mean, seriously. Look at that face!

But really, I’m not *that* sorry– I’m here to gloat. I won! I won! Okay, I shouldn’t brag. But since I lost last year, I’m pretty psyched that I won.

I’ve previously made a holiday version of this cookie, which I will post in the winter. I couldn’t resist making this when one of Sarah’s preferences included chocolate and mint. I modified a great chocolate espresso sandwich cookie from Tish Boyle’s book, The Good Cookie, and switched the ganache to a chocolate-mint one.

Chocolate cookies:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup non-alkalized cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temp

Mint-chocolate ganache

6 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly blended.

In a small cup, combine the espresso powder with the vanilla extract and stir with a small rubber spatula until the espresso powder has dissolved.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add both sugars and continue beating until the mixture is light in texture and color, approx 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg until well blended. Add the vanilla extract. At low speed, beat in the flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the side of the bowl after each addition.

Drop the dough by slightly rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1.5 inches between them (they will expand!).

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Bake, two sheets at a time, for 7-9 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are very lightly browned but the centers are still slightly soft. Switch the positions of the pans halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Be careful– chocolate based cookies burn easily.

Cool the cookies on baking sheets on a wire rack for 1-2 minutes, and then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, you can whip up the ganache!

Place the chocolate in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. With the motor running, add the hot cream to the chopped chocolate and process for 25-30 seconds, or until completely smooth. Add mint extract and process for another 20 seconds, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary. I added quite a bit of mint extract to this recipe because I really wanted the mint to stand out– if you would like it to be more subtle, feel free to add it to the ganache 1/2 tsp at a time, tasting in between, so that it’s to your desired minty-ness.

Spread a gently rounded teaspoonful of the ganache filling onto the bottom half of the cookies. Top with remaining cookies and very gently press the sandwiches together. Let sit at room temperature or fridge for at least 30 minutes to set the ganache.

I dare you to make both of the recipes we submitted to Sarah and decide for yourself!

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Mocha Chip Ice Cream

Our ice cream maker has become my favorite kitchen accessory. There is something amazing about being able to make our own ice cream, in any flavor we want. And it is always better than the store bought stuff. I mean…just look at this:IMG_0427

I also enjoy having ice cream available at all times. Presently, we have chocolate and mocha chip ice creams in the freezer (along with espresso chocolate chip cookies, almond cake, and Girl Scout thin mints…this could become a problem). We recently finished a delightful batch of vanilla ice cream as well. So if you ever have a midnight craving, you know who to call.

Anyway: the point of this post is that I have made my favorite ice cream concoction thus far: mocha chocolate chip. Now, I love coffee ice cream, so this was a no-brainer. But it really did exceed my expectations. It has an incredibly rich, dark flavor.

IMG_0415These delightful-looking coffee beans are steeped in milk and cream and then mixed with chocolate–what could be better?IMG_0419

Here’s how to make it:

Mocha Chip Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups whole coffee beans
pinch of salt
1 1/2 heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp dutch processed cocoa
3 oz chopped chocolate
5 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp ground espresso (or coffee)
6 oz mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Freeze your ice cream maker according to instructions–usually for at least 15 hours prior to making the ice cream, placed in the coldest part of the freezer.
  2. Warm the milk, sugar, whole coffee beans, salt, and 1/2 cup of cream in a saucepan until steaming but not boiling. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to steep for about 1.5 hours.
  3. When the coffee mixture is almost done steeping, mix the cocoa and a second 1/2 cup cream in a small saucepan. Whisk until blended, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 seconds. Turn off heat, and mix in chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir in the last 1/2 cup cream, then pour the whole chocolate mixture into a large metal bowl and set aside.
  4. Once the coffee mixture is done steeping, re-warm on the stove.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended. Very slowly*, pour the warmed coffee mixture into the egg yolks.
  6. Return the warmed coffee and yolk mixture into the same pan, and heat on the stove over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken**, but do not allow the mixture to boil.
  7. Set the bowl of chocolate into a larger bowl with ice and water*** with a mesh strainer set over the bowl of chocolate. Poor the warmed coffee and yolk mixture into the chocolate through the mesh strainer. Using a spatula, push on the coffee beans to extract any remaining liquid, then set aside.
  8. Stir together the chocolate and milk-yolk mixtures together in the bowl. Work to incorporate them completely. The chocolate may have firmed up while set aside, but the warmed milk-yolk mixture should loosen it up. Add the vanilla and ground espresso and stir until the mixture is cool.
  9. Pour ice cream mixture into a container and chill thoroughly (about 8 hours or longer).
  10. Freeze the ice cream according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Mix in chocolate chips in the last minute of churning. Transfer ice cream to a long flat container and freeze until ready to eat.

Notes:

*Be careful not to cook the yolks while you are pouring the warmed milk mixture into the eggs. The best way to do this is to pour in a very small, steady stream while stirring constantly. I usually can do this pretty well on my own, although a second pair of hands is helpful (particularly with this recipe, where the coffee beans can create more of a mess in the pouring process).

**It is very important not to let the mixture boil here. Stir constantly, until you begin to feel the mixture thicken. Usually this is pretty clear, although once again the coffee beans can make it a little less clear. I only needed to stir this mixture for about five minutes.

***I add about three ice cube trays worth of ice into a very large metal bowl, and fill it up about half way with water to create an ice bath. Then I place a second, smaller metal bowl inside the first one.

Chocolate espresso hazelnut cookies

A few years ago, I gave Jess a gift of a “Bakeshop Basics” class at Viking Cooking School. It appears they have closed their suburban Philadelphia outpost, so that’s kind of sad. Jess was well beyond the basics of baking, but I knew she wanted to learn how to make bread, and one of the things they had on their roster for this class was bread. When Jess came home, she had a box with samples of each of the treats they covered in this day-long class.

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One of the treats she had in her box was this cookie, this chocolate espresso hazelnut beauty. It has since been one of my favorites– soft, nutty, and rich, this cookie is worth all the pain and suffering that comes with using hazelnuts. Toasted hazelnuts are delicious– you can see we love them, since we use them in recipes all the time. But they are frustrating to deal with; you have to bake them in the oven and then remove the skins, but the skin does not come off easily. My best recommendation is to toast more than what you’re asked to use in any recipe. You will find that a fair percentage of the skins do not come off the nuts.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in a 275° F oven for about 20-25 minutes, when skins have darkened and cracked. Place the hazelnuts in a paper towel and rub them vigorously to remove the skins. Chop the nuts and set them aside.

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (to save yourself time, use the Whole Foods brand bittersweet chocolate chunks)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place rack in center of oven. Sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

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In a double boiler, melt together butter and 2/3 cup chocolate.

In bowl of electric mixer, combine eggs, sugar, and espresso powder. Beat on high with paddle attachment until mixture becomes pale and thick – about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and mix in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla extract. 

Add the flour-cocoa mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in remaining chocolate and hazelnuts.

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Drop batter by heaping tablespoons on parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

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Bake until the tops have crusted over and are slightly cracked – about 9 to 11 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking time. Be careful, chocolate-based cookies burn easily! Transfer to cooling racks and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

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