chocolate

chocolate-dunked pistachio shortbread [food52]

Winter is a cookie season.

December, yes, with its holiday cookies and cookie swaps and neat little DIY boxes tied with ribbon and full of festivity–but winter, as a whole, is a season for warm cookies fresh out of the oven, paired with a piping hot cup of black tea with milk. Even though Chicago can’t decide whether or not winter is actually happening this year, I dream of gooey, melting chocolate chunks and sugar-dusted buttery crumble.

Then again, maybe this is just me developing a shortbread obsession this season.

Over winter break, I made a grand total of seven different kinds of cookies, five of which were variations of shortbread. I have zero regrets about this, for the record, and I doubt any of my friends and family do, either.

One was a repeat recipe: chewy coconut lime sugar cookies, enhanced this time by rubbing lime zest into the sugar I used for rolling. The remaining six, however, were all new ventures. I didn’t properly photograph all of them, but I’ll be unrolling the ones I did, hopefully in time for you all to try them out before spring starts appearing.

We start the lineup with easily my favorite of them all: chocolate-dunked pistachio shortbread, recipe courtesy of Food52.

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These rich cookies are shockingly easy to make, yet bursting with flavor. Melt-in-your-mouth, crumbs-on-your shirt shortbread is made even better with the bright green, buttery crunch of fresh chopped pistachios and a smooth and generous coating of semisweet chocolate.

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Ever since my stay in Turkey, I’ve been craving a good pistachio dessert. Pistachio ice cream, pistachio-and-cream-filled pastry, and even pure pistachio paste–Turkey just knows how to turn these little nuts into an intense and luxurious experience.

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And let me tell you: with nearly a full cup of chopped nuts, these cookies do not skimp on the pistachio experience.

If you buy your nuts in small packages at a standard grocery store, this recipe could get expensive. I highly recommend trying something like Costco or a South Asian/Middle Eastern grocery store to buy nuts in bulk. Much more affordable, and who doesn’t want a bag of leftover pistachios to munch on?

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As for the chocolate-dipped part: you don’t need a double boiler, and you don’t need super high-quality chocolate for these to be absolutely delicious. I melted dark chocolate chunks (not chips!) in the microwave in 15-second bursts, and that was perfect for coating half of each cookie in a thick, smooth layer of chocolate that hardened nicely after a few hours.

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I sent some of these home with the boyfriend after he visited, but to be honest, I mostly ate them myself. Like I said: zero regrets.

***

To my UChicago friends, happy 8th week! And to everyone else, happy last week of February! May the remainder of your winter be crisp and cookie-worthy.

 

chocolate-dunked pistachio shortbread
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  3. 1/4 tsp salt
  4. 1/2 cup butter
  5. 1/3 cup sugar
  6. 1/2 plus 1/3 cups raw unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided
  7. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  8. 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in 1/2 cup pistachios and vanilla extract.
  4. Add dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
  5. Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into logs 2-3 inches long (~20 of them). Place on lined baking sheets about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake until just golden around the edges, 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely.
  7. Melt chocolate (in a double boiler or in the microwave, carefully), stirring until smooth. Place remaining 1/3 cup pistachios in a shallow bowl.
  8. Dip one end of each cooled cookie into the melted chocolate, covering about 1/3 of the cookie. Let excess chocolate drip off.
  9. Roll chocolate-covered end in chopped pistachios, then place on a clean sheet of wax paper or a cooling rack.
  10. Repeat with remaining cookies. Let stand until chocolate has hardened--at least one hour.
  11. Cookies will keep in an airtight container up to 1 week (if you can make them last that long).
Adapted from Food52
Adapted from Food52
tlc. | tender love and cupcakes. http://tenderloveandcupcakes.com/

peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with sea salt [ambitious kitchen]

(Originally posted: March 2, 2014)

I hate hard pretzels. I have always hated hard pretzels. There’s something about their weird saltiness but not-quite-bread-ness that I can’t handle. I think they’re dry and gross and I do not like them.

BUT. I love chocolate-covered pretzels.

I’m convinced that the salty-sweet combination is pure magic. Salted caramel, chocolate- or yogurt-covered pretzels, dark chocolate with sea salt, a bowl of popcorn sprinkled with M&M’s–I’m in love with all of it.

Enter these obscenely delicious peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with sea salt, courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen.

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Warm, melty chocolate. Creamy peanut butter. The sudden crunch of sea salt every couple of bites. Perfect with a glass of cold milk, and definitely too good to eat just one. Mine did not turn out as thick as the ones in the recipe, but they were still wonderfully chewy, even long after they cooled down. 

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The batch was surprisingly large, and even in my apartment of four (with the frequent visiting friends), these lasted a while, still calling to me from the kitchen counter at 2 am nearly a week after they came out of the oven.

If you’ve ever found yourself studying late into the night anywhere near homemade baked goods, you understand this call that cannot be ignored, no matter how much your stomach may make you regret the decision soon after.

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Seeing Greek yogurt and honey in a recipe can almost fool you into thinking it’s healthy.
Almost.
At the very least, it serves as an (admittedly shaky) excuse to eat more than one when they come out the oven.
If there is a problem with this, I cannot see it.

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Obviously, there is science behind the unbelievable appeal of this salty-sweet combination, and being the nerd that I am, I started googling to find out the truth behind my deep, deep love of those dark chocolate/sea salt Lindt bars.

FUN FACT TIME!

There are a handful of studies that delve into the curious effects of salt on sweet treats. Our taste buds can experience five different categories of tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami, which translates loosely from Japanese as savory. In general, our whole tongue is capable of tasting all five types, but there are different receptors for each one. Many studies suggest that the presence of sodium–half of what we use as common table salt, which is sodium chloride–affects more than just the salty taste receptors and in fact removes inhibitors that exist in other ones, allowing the sweetness of the food to be tasted more intensely than it would’ve been otherwise. In fact, this characteristic is what makes salt such a good flavor enhancer in the first place.

However, there is, of course, a limit. Please don’t go emptying your bottle of sea salt into your next chocolate cake. That is not something that will end pleasantly for you or anyone else.

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All science aside, whether you’re curious about the functions of your taste buds or not, these cookies are delicious and are bound to satisfy some craving of yours.

Stay safe, stay warm, and stir up a batch of these if you find yourself bored at home tonight.

Happy Saturday! 😀

 

TARDIS cake – happy 50th!

Let me preface this by saying that I have the coolest roommates ever.

Phillips, being the perfect person she is, threw a Doctor Who 50th Anniversary viewing shindig, in which all guests dressed up and came over for Doctor Who-themed snacks like Adipose marshmallows…

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…and, of course, to actually watch the new episode and collectively freak out.

Kaitlyn, being the perfect person she is, used her artistic powers for good and turned our door into a TARDIS.

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What? It’s bigger on the inside, you say?

Why, yes, it is.

Sam, being the perfect person she is, sat through several episodes and a crash-course powerpoint presentation (courtesy of Phillips) so that she wouldn’t be lost during the party, and even dressed up as Sally Sparrow.

Sadly, I don’t have a photo of this.

My contribution for the night was a TARDIS cake, inspired by this wonderful tutorial by the Artisan Cake Company.

The results (with a borrowed sonic screwdriver):

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Ooooooh.

Of course, I’m terribly nitpicky, so it kills me to compare my cake to the tutorial. I’m already looking for an excuse to make another one and perfect the design. Probably a bad idea, considering how long this one took me, but I’m not going to think about that.

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This cake was…quite an ordeal. It began on Friday night with the cake itself, the frosting, and the modeling chocolate. The frosting started out as a Swiss meringue buttercream, but I evidently haven’t mastered that yet, because it quickly turned into a regular buttercream. Thankfully, nobody I know is opposed to regular ol’ buttercream. 😉

The cake–well–it was definitely the easiest part of the whole process. I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe from foodess. It’s darker than most chocolate cakes without being overwhelmingly rich, it’s moist, and it has a soft crumble that’s hard to stop eating.

The modeling chocolate, made using this video’s recipe (also referenced by the tutorial), turned out way greasier than the instructions suggested it would. I ended up draining the excess water/grease as I mixed the corn syrup and melted chocolate. I was a little nervous that it would turn the chocolate into a crumbly mess (as threatened by the video), but after sitting wrapped up overnight, it was just as perfectly malleable as I’d hoped. Phew.

Which prompts me to say: if you’re using Wilton candy melts, you’re going to end up with alarming amounts of liquid as you’re mixing. Don’t panic. Drain the excess, wrap the chocolate in plastic wrap, and go to sleep. It’ll be fine. Really.

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There are few situations I could’ve imagined in which I’d be molding a cake using a paring knife. This is what happens when there’s no way you can get your hands on an exacto knife.

Several layers of modeling chocolate later, I had a vaguely shaped blue box. Hooray!

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Windows, decals, and a lot of coaxing later, I had turned my blue box into a TARDIS-shaped blue box. Double hooray! 🙂

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In the interest of keeping this cake as cheap as possible–and actually finishing it in time for the party, which was a struggle as it was–I passed on the white fondant and the intricate painting of windows, using leftover buttercream and a bit of black gel food coloring to finish the decorations.

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I also used a tiny balled up piece of aluminum foil instead of an actual floral light.

I’m a college student; what am I supposed to do with an entire pack of floral lights?

Topped that with leftover modeling chocolate painted black, and I had a “light” for my TARDIS.

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At some point during this process, I switched from apron-clad apartment baker to a femme eleventh Doctor putting the finishing touches on her precious ship.

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The suspenders and blazer showed up later.

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All in all, definitely a successful project. It was painful finally cutting into the cake–but also beyond worth it when everyone actually got to enjoy it.

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The support straws got sliced in the process and looked rather silly.

Also dang, look at those slabs of modeling chocolate. I didn’t even realize how much frosting and chocolate had been layered on there until I cut the thing open.

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Overall: 10/10, would definitely try something this out there again. Too much fun!

For progress photos & many more detail shots, head over to my flickr. Most of these are courtesy of Kaitlyn, who is responsible for the majority of the party documentation.

Thank you, Kaitlyn!

Next time, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming that includes far less time-consuming recipes.

To my UChicago friends: happy 10th week! And to all, happy December! Let the season of peppermint and huge sweaters begin 🙂 x