So despite just returning from a combination work-holiday the hubby’s abandoning us to go to attend another scientific conference. Ironically, ivory tower mad scientists actually spend quite a bit of time at these types of conferences since translating esoteric theoretics into real life experiments involves a lot of brainstorming and collaboration. Moving, shaking and pocket protector rubbing. But instead of the cold shoulder, he’s being sent off with homemade sea salt chocolate truffle cookies for a snack and as a part of a house-warming gift for someone who graduated from his lab into the real world. Huh? You see, back in the rosy days of our residency training, we finagled credit out of staying in Thailand for a month doing “tropical medicine.” And on one of our weekends out exploring, we went trekking in hill tribe country with a local guide and some British backpackers. One of the guys expressed an interest in some medicinal herbage to our guide and after a brief conversation with one of the grannies, was provided with a small garbage bag full of, um, mary jane [Cough, marijuana! Cough.] As he handed over the king’s ransom of 100 baht, about $2 at the time, she was chortling merrily away. Up in the foothills, there were no fences so in order to get their pigs to return in the evening, they fed them marijuana. A little incentive for them to come back to their pens at night, so needless to say, granny thought it was hilarious that the crazy farang (foreigner) was paying her so much money for pig feed, hehe. So my 6 ft piggy may be winging his way to nerdapalooza but he’ll still be coming back to the pen in the evening🙂
I find it interesting that very few recipes actually use baker’s chocolate or 100% cacao, opting instead for bittersweet or even less chocolate-y semi-sweet chocolate. I suspect a lot of it is due to the fact that 100% cacao needs to be melted down in a double-boiler with butter and some source of sugar adding an extra step that in most cases would be easier to skip altogether. And for the most part, it doesn’t add enough to the end result to go to that extra effort. This chocolate-y truffle-y gem; however, really benefits from the bitterly sweet dark chocolate! oomph of the dark chocolate sauce. While you will still have enough sugar to qualify this as a dessert cookie, the bitterness of the chocolate and sea salt provide a nice counterpoint to the sugar giving you a flavor combination that is greater than the sum of its parts. The dynamic duo of rich chocolate-y cookie with pockets of semi-sweet chips that burst in your mouth aren’t bad at all either. These truffle cookies have a high moisture content so will keep their fresh taste for 4-5 days, making great gifts. That is, if the resident truffle pig doesn’t get to them first….
A few things to improve your afternoon while slaving over a hot oven:
1) One of the most heartbreaking things about baking cookies, besides burnt cookies, is having them stick to the baking sheet like road kill. If you like to bake cookies or work with candies/caramels, look into getting a silicone baking mat. Even the stickiest cookies slide off easily without having to drench the cookie sheet in oil cuz we all prefer our calories in chocolate, no? Nowadays they’re fairly reasonably priced so you won’t have to cough up a kidney as a down payment, just make sure you get a 100% silicone mat as some companies are producing silicone bakeware with non-silicone fillers which have a decreased lifespan and are not truly non-stick. For more info on how to tell if your silicone is made with fillers or not read more here.
2) Another helpful
toy tool to keep in mind is a cookie scoop. If you find yourself baking cookies regularly or even making chocolate truffles or meatballs it comes in handy. Not only does it give you uniformly sized cookies which helps with baking times (no more overdone Lilliputian cookies interspersed with doughy Gullivers) but also drastically cuts down on cookie forming time without the muscle cramps to go with it. I like the small, 2 tsp, scoop by Oxo for these cookies because it has a smooth release letting you just drop the cookie onto the sheet and the rubberized grip doesn’t slip nor bite into your hand. This dough is pretty dense and sticky so toward the end I do have to use a finger on the edge to flick the dough out of the scoop but even with that it’s still 3-4 times faster than the 2-spoon method.
3) Avoid the temptation to overmix as this will expose more of the gluten from the flour allowing it to create a matrix thereby giving the dough a tough, rubbery texture so once you no longer have visible patches of flour you’re good to go. Fine Cooking has a simple and informative look at gluten and baking.
4) Don’t worry if you don’t have a double-boiler to melt the chocolate, you can jerry rig your own. Boil water in a pot or tea kettle. Pour it into a large mixing bowl. Let sit for a minute to let the steam dissipate. Using a pot holder, hold a small bowl, preferably metal so it conducts heat well as you are using the steam from the water to heat the bowl, above the mixing bowl just above but not touching the hot water. Gently stir the chocolate mixture together using the heat from the hot water. Try not to splash the water as not only can you get burned but it can also cause your chocolate to seize becoming a separated, lumpy, grainy mixture.
5) Is there a quick and dirty conversion for conventional vs convection baking times? Yup. Usually, unless you have a really short, less than 15 minute, cooking time you should reduce the baking time by 25-30% so a 60 minute baking time in a conventional oven would roughly become 45 minutes in a convection oven. I usually decrease my time by 25% and set a timer to check 5 minutes before the decreased time so for the above example I would bust out my cake tester at 40 minutes. And I case you’re wondering, silicone pans also have a faster baking time than metal pans ~10% in my experience.
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 tbsp Dutch process cocoa powder, I like Dröste brand
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp + extra for sprinkling sea salt (Kosher or flake salt would also work) If substituting table salt, use only half the amount as it has much smaller crystals than sea salt or kosher salt so the same measurement will give you a lot more salt, about 2-3 times as much.
3 large eggs
1 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 + 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz baker’s chocolate (100% cacao), broken into small pieces
6 tbsp unsalted butter
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder and 1/4 tsp sea salt. Set aside.
Mix eggs and sugar with electric mixer on high till pale yellow and frothy.
Mix in vanilla extract and set aside.
In a double-boiler with water at a low simmer, melt together 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips, baker’s chocolate, and butter. Mix chocolate sauce into egg mixture.
With mixer on low, add flour mixture to dough till just combined (no patches or big streaks of flour are visible). Mix in remaining 1 c of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Chill dough in refrigerator for ~20 minutes till dough is firm enough to easily scoop.
Preheat oven to 350F while dough is chilling. Have a seat in a comfy chair and read a book while you’re at it🙂
These cookies don’t expand much so you can drop 1 inch dough balls onto the baking sheet ~3 inches apart. Sprinkle each cookie with a tiny pinch of sea salt and lightly pat salt into dough.
Bake for 9-11 minutes. When little cracks appear on top they’re done🙂 With a convection oven, silicone mat, and ~15 cookies per baking sheet it takes 10 minutes for me. Let rest for 4-5 minutes before removing from baking sheet as they are very soft initially. Makes ~45 cookies. (I can never get even dozens out of my cookie dough. I think it’s a conspiracy ;))