Kitchen 411: Baked

1.14.2009

By Out.com Editors

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CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

It's easy to make a delicious chocolate chip cookie. You should never settle for the tasteless, chalky, lazy versions found in quickie marts and at mass-market kiosks. A good chocolate chip cookie, in our opinion, is one of life's small pleasures, and you should treat it as such. Pay special attention to your ingredients. Use a high-grade butter (experiment with some of the specialty butters on the market), fresh eggs, and real vanilla. This recipe produces our favorite type of chocolate chip cookie: slightly crisp edges and a soft center. We couldn't help ourselves with the chocolate, so we also added more chips than usual to the batter.

Baked Note
You can leave the dough, tightly covered, in your refrigerator for up to 5 days and bake it off in small batches so you can have warm, fresh-from-the-oven cookies any time you like.

Yield: 24 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
' cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2⅔ cups (16 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. The mixture will look light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat for 5 seconds.

Add half of the flour mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate chips.

Cover the bowl tightly and put in the refrigerator for 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Use an ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to scoop out dough in 2-tablespoon-size balls. Use your hands to shape the dough into perfect balls and place them on the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the pans once during the cooking time, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown and the tops just start to darken.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the individual cookies to the rack to cool completely (although they are delicious warm).

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

SWEET AND SALTY CAKE

This is our signature creation, our most loved cake, and our most requested recipe. Is all this attention warranted? Absolutely. Our Sweet and Salty Cake is an indulgent but sophisticated adult sweet: The perfectly salted caramel contrasts beautifully with the rich chocolate layers, giving the cake balance and character. It probably goes without saying that the salted caramel is also delicious poured over dark chocolate ice cream.

Baked Note
Fleur de sel, or sea salt, is readily available at grocery stores; however, there is a whole world of specialty salts now available online and at specialty food markets. Gray salt (sel gris), Hawaiian sea salt, Italian sea salt, and smoked sea salt will all work well in this recipe, though with slightly different (but always delicious) results.

Yield: 1 (8-inch) cake

For the classic chocolate cake layers:

' cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1' cups hot water
⅔ cup sour cream
2⅔ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
' teaspoon salt
' cup (1' sticks) unsalted butter, softened
' cup vegetable shortening
1' cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the salted caramel
' cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
' cup sour cream

For the whipped caramel ganache frosting:

1 pound dark chocolate (60 to 70%cacao), chopped
1' cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into '-inch pieces

To assemble the cake:

2 teaspoons fleur de sel, plus more for garnish

Make the classic chocolate cake layers
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.

In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder, hot water, and sour cream and set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a medium bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until ribbonlike, about 5 minutes. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.

Add the flour mixture, alternating with the cocoa mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

Make the salted caramel
In a small saucepan, combine the cream and fleur de sel. Bring to a simmer over very low heat until the salt is dissolved.

Meanwhile, keeping a close eye on the cream mixture so it doesn't burn, in a medium saucepan combine ' cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup, stirring them together carefully so you don't splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F., 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 1 minute.

Add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Whisk in the sour cream. Let the caramel cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Make the whipped caramel ganache frosting
Put the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over very low heat.

Meanwhile, keeping a close eye on the cream so it doesn't burn, in a medium saucepan combine ' cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup, stirring them together carefully so you don't splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F., 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the caramel cool for 1 minute.

Add the cream to the caramel and stir to combine. Stir slowly for 2 minutes, then pour the caramel over the chocolate. Let the caramel and chocolate sit for 1 minute, then, starting in the center of the bowl, and working your way out to the edges, slowly stir the chocolate and caramel mixture in a circle until the chocolate is completely melted. Let the mixture cool, then transfer it to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Mix on low speed until the bowl feels cool to the touch. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the butter, beating until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and beat on high speed until the mixture is fluffy.

Assemble the cake
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread ' cup of the caramel over the top. Let the caramel soak into the cake, then spread ' cup of the ganache frosting over the caramel. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the fleur de sel over the frosting, then top with the second cake layer. Spread with caramel frosting and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the fleur de sel. Then top with the third layer. Spread with caramel. Crumb coat the cake and put the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up the frosting. Frost the sides and top with the remaining frosting. Garnish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

This cake will keep beautifully in a cake saver at room temperature (cool and humidity free) for up to 3 days. If your room is not cool, place the cake in a cake saver and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.

CHOCOLATE STOUT MILKSHAKE

Yield: 2 - 8 oz servings

Two of our favorite things: chocolate ice cream and an ice cold stout. Though not a common combination, these ingredients taste wonderful together. Actually, this pairing deserves a more thorough analysis as the combo is downright harmonious. The creamy malt stout brings out a robustness in the ice cream that is magical. This recipe is a perfect party accompaniment, and works great in smaller, 4 oz servings as a passed refreshment.

Baked Note
We highly recommend that you use a chocolate stout (many micro-breweries produce their own version). As much we like Guiness and other dry stouts, they are too light and dry for this concoction.

2 Huge Scoops (about 2 cups) of high quality chocolate ice cream
' cup whole milk
' cup very cold Chocolate Stout
1 Tbsp of malted milk powder

Place two tall (8oz or larger) heavy glasses in the freezer while you put the components of your milkshake together.

Place the ice cream, milk, stout and malt powder in a powerful blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into two chilled glasses and serve with a spoon.

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