The Perfect Pair
The Perfect Pair
Gluten-Free Chocolate-Peanut Cookies … That Taste Great!

In an ongoing effort to try alternative recipes, I found a tasty little morsel for Flourless Chocolate-Macademia Cookies in a recent Martha Stewart Living magazine. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it online, so here’s my slightly adapted version using peanuts, which are cheaper (and which I happened to have in my kitchen).

I’ve also included weights vs. measures, since weighing is lots easier and more accurate for baking. Let me know what you think!

Flourless Chocolate-Peanut Cookies

Source: Adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Ingredients

Confectioners’ Sugar, 375 g or 13.5 oz. or 3 cups
Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder, 82.5 g or 3 oz. or ¾ cup
Salt, ½ teaspoon
Bittersweet Chocolate, Chopped into Small Pieces, 142 g or 5 oz.
Salted Peanuts, Shelled and Chopped Roughly, 165 g or 6 oz. or 1½ cups
Large Egg Whites, Room Temperature and Stirred Slightly to Combine, 120 g or 4 oz. or 4

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Whisk together confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and salt. Stir in chopped chocolate and peanuts.
3. Stir in egg whites until mixture is just incorporated.
4. Drop dough in large scoops, 3 inches apart, on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until the tops are dry and cracked, about 22-25 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer baking sheets to wire racks for 5 minutes. Leave cookies on the parchment paper and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Yield: 14-16 cookies
To Store: Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 3 days.

Maybe a Name Change?

When I started down the road of food and drink several years ago (beginning with the drink part), I believed my focus was going to be on helping people find and enjoy “the perfect pair.” That’s to say, the perfect pairing of food and wine that make a dining experience not just good, but sublime.

But, as I begin the denouement of my culinary school training (graduation is June 27!), I’m starting to re-think my focus. What it comes down to, is that I love a classic dinner party. And that’s the experience I want to deliver for clients as a private chef - the classic dining experience that includes perfectly paired wines and foods, put together in a thoughtful way that is really about “dining” and less about merely eating and drinking.

Would love to hear your thoughts. Does “classic dinner party” seem too limiting? Or does it more precisely explain the service I aim to provide?

Hmm … Doughnuts …

Tested a new dessert this weekend, and it’s a winner: Vanilla Doughnuts with a Trio of Sauces. Recipe below.

Yield

16 doughnuts
and 16 doughnut holes

Ingredients
1 cup Skim Milk
½ cup plus 1 T. Vanilla Sugar
1 oz. Active Dry Yeast
½ cup Solid Vegetable Shortening
3 large Egg Yolks
2 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Baking Powder
½ tsp. Ground Mace
500 grams Bread Flour, sifted
Boiling Water
Vegetable Oil for drying
Vanilla Sugar for rolling

Blueberry Jam
12 oz. frozen Blueberries
1 cup Sugar

Caramel Sauce
2 cups Sugar
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 T. Butter, cubed
Salt to taste

Chocolate Sauce
4 oz. Milk
5 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate (72%)
2 oz. Heavy Cream
½ oz. Butter
2 oz. Sugar

For the Doughnuts
1. In a small saucepan, warm the milk and 1 T. vanilla sugar to 105 degrees F. Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the shortening, egg yolks and remaining ½ cup of vanilla sugar and beat at medium speed just to break up the shortening.
3. Beat in the salt, baking powder and mace.
4. At low speed, add the flour 1 cup at a time until the dough is firm but still tacky. You may need to add more or less flour to achieve the desired consistency.
5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times. Pat it into a disc, put on a lightly floured baking sheet, cover with a towel and place into a turned-off oven. Set a large roasting pan on the bottom rack of the oven and fill it halfway with boiling water. Close oven door and let dough rise to double in bulk, about 1 hour.
6. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with flour. Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll to a 12-inch round, ½-inch thick.
7. Cut out doughnuts using a 2¾-inch doughnut cutter, stamping them as closely together as possible. (Alternatively, use a 1-inch cookie cutter to make all doughnut holes.)
8. Transfer the doughnuts to the prepared sheets and return to oven, refilling the boiling water. Let dough double in bulk again, about 45 minutes.
9. Preheat oil to 350 degrees F. Set a rack over a baking sheet and cover with paper towels.
10. Fry the doughnuts until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to the paper towels. Then, roll in vanilla sugar when still warm to coat. 

For the Blueberry Jam
1. Combine berries and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
2. Boil rapidly to gelling point, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
3. Reserve for service, thinning slightly with water if necessary to maintain viscosity.

For the Caramel Sauce
1. Carmelize sugar, then add cream, butter and salt to taste and to make a smooth sauce.
2. Keep warm for service.

For the Chocolate Sauce
1. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and put into a work bowl.
2. Bring the milk to a boil and pour over the chocolate. Stir gently until the chocolate is melted.
3. In the same saucepan used for the milk, heat the cream, butter and sugar to a boil.
4. Pour the melted chocolate into the cream mixture, return to a boil, and then remove from heat.
5. Keep warm for service.

Food Blogging?

If you’re in the food-writing business or want to be, check out the International Culinary Center’s (formerly known as the French Culinary Institute) upcoming class, Food Blogging with Steven Shaw. I’ve won a scholarship to participate in the class and am excited to learn all the things I’ve been doing wrong thus far. Still a few spaces left, if anyone is interested in signing up.

Watermelon Pudding? Here’s the link to the Epicurious recipe. It was tasty, but a little odd (I would omit the anise seeds if I make it again). I made a pistachio brittle, which went beautifully with the pudding and some fresh whipped cream. Nice clean watermelon flavor, and strangely compelling with the garnishes. Your thoughts?

Watermelon Pudding? Here’s the link to the Epicurious recipe. It was tasty, but a little odd (I would omit the anise seeds if I make it again). I made a pistachio brittle, which went beautifully with the pudding and some fresh whipped cream. Nice clean watermelon flavor, and strangely compelling with the garnishes. Your thoughts?

Picked up some beautiful blackberries (Mike’s favorite) today and made this Provencal fruit tart with some of them. I usually make this with apricots or plums, but the blackberries were quite tasty.

Before, during and after photos of transforming a live lobster into lobster medallions in a lobster-tomato sauce. Yumm …

Southern Comfort Food at the French Culinary Institute

We had our final buffet of Level 4 today and did a menu based on a Southern BBQ with a hint of Derby Party.

The menu was pretty darned impressive, if I say so myself, and we prepared just about everything from scratch:

* Carolina Smoked Pork (I brined and smoked the pork shoulder) served on Brioche Buns (made by the bread class) with Bread and Butter Pickles and a Carolina BBQ Sauce (heavy on the vinegar)

* Kansas City-Style Pork with a ketchup-based BBQ sauce

* Smoked Beef Short Ribs with the ketchup-based BBQ sauce

* Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

* Shrimp and Grits

* Fishsticks and Maryland Crab Cakes with Remoulade and a Red Pepper Coulis

* Fried Chicken

* Collard Greens

* Grilled Corn on the Cob

* Southern Cole Slaw

* Fried Okra

* Baked Beans

* Macaroni Salad

* Cheddar-Jalapeno Cornbread

* Hushpuppies with Honey Butter and Maple Butter

* Devilled Eggs

* Watermelon and Feta Salad

* Fried Green Tomatoes with Ranch Dressing 

* Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

* Pecan Tassies

* Ice Cream Sundae Bar

* Virgin Mint Juleps

* Sweet Tea

Testing out a new “bargain” caviar picked up at the Essex Street Market - $5.99 for a 2-ounce jar and it’s pretty good.

Testing out a new “bargain” caviar picked up at the Essex Street Market - $5.99 for a 2-ounce jar and it’s pretty good.

I experimented with homemade pizza tonight, trying out Mark Bittman’s Basic Pizza Dough. I added fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes and fresh basil with salt and extra-virgin olive oil. It was tasty, but still working on getting the crust the right texture. The pizza stone definitely helped to keep it crisp and chewy.

I experimented with homemade pizza tonight, trying out Mark Bittman’s Basic Pizza Dough. I added fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes and fresh basil with salt and extra-virgin olive oil. It was tasty, but still working on getting the crust the right texture. The pizza stone definitely helped to keep it crisp and chewy.