Chocolate Affair provides challenge for Record chef
by Alan Reed
Feb 13, 2008 | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I never have cooked many desserts. I eat them if I have room, but never really learned about cooking them. I was asked to provide something for the Janice Mason Art Museum’s Chocolate Affair last weekend. At first, I offered my aid to my friend Lauren Patterson, who I think was underwhelmed with my knowledge of sweets.

So I thought about what I could do chocolaty and decided that with plenty of selection, and my general lack of knowledge on sweets, I would be best suited to keep things simple. I decided to bake cookies.

If I dedicate the cookies to anything or anyone, it would be this calico cat that has parked herself on Hawkins’ doorstep. Apparently, she belongs to neighbors, but thinks she ought to live in his apartment. Though we’ve tried to ignore her, she has showed little inclination to move. I call her “Cookie-Puss” after a cake made (in)famous at Carvel Ice Cream. And no, Cookie-Puss did not try any of my cookies.

I started out with research and selected two recipes with my own modifications. The first recipe made about two-dozen Kahlua chocolate chip cookies.

Start by softening two sticks of butter in the microwave. Blend the butter in a mixer with ¾ cups of brown sugar and a like amount of white sugar. Beat it until the butter and sugars form a smooth paste. My grandmother always told me to never add eggs directly to anything being mixed, just in case one was a bad egg. Add two well-beaten eggs, one at a time to the sugar and butter and continue to beat the mixture well. To give the cookies a nice flavor, I added a teaspoon of real vanilla extract and a second teaspoon filled with Kahlua Coffee Liquor. Continue beating the mixture in the blender.

All cookies need flour right? In a separate bowl, pour 2 ¼ cups of flour. For these cookies, I used a blend of 50 percent white flour and 50 percent whole wheat, just to give them some texture. Besides, I really like whole-wheat anything. To the flour add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda. Mix the dry ingredients with a fork and add it to the mixer.

Once the dry ingredients have blended into the dough evenly, take the bowl out of the mixer. Scrape the beaters well. Since the dough has raw eggs, I advise against heeding your inner child and tasting the beaters. Add a bag of chocolate chips to the dough, and a half-cup of walnuts. I wanted dark-chocolate chips for these cookies, but the best I could manage was semi-sweet. Mix the chips and nuts into the dough. When thoroughly blended, place heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet about an inch-and-a-half apart. Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. When done, allow the cookies to cook before scraping them from the pan with a spatula.

The second batch of cookies came at chocolate tasters with both barrels. I made double-chocolate amaretto cookies that were darker than Cadiz during last week’s blackout. The secret had to have been the dark chocolate cocoa I found at a store.

Again, start with two sticks of softened butter. We’re blending them with a cup of packed brown sugar and ¾ cup of white sugar. Beat the butter and sugar well, then add three eggs the same way as before, beaten and one-at-a-time. Add a teaspoon of vanilla, and this time, a teaspoon of amaretto. Why amaretto? You’ll see in just a second.

I want to speak again on vanilla. Buy the best vanilla available for your recipes. Imitation should never be used. The real thing is the only thing to taste right in a recipe. If you have access to Mexican vanilla, it would be the perfect ingredient for these recipes. Unfortunately, I had nothing of the sort, so I used commercial extract.

In a separate bowl, mix two-and-a-half cups of the same flour as above with a teaspoon of baking soda, a quarter teaspoon of salt, and a half-cup of cocoa powder. I’ve grown fond of dark chocolate, almost to the point where milk chocolate tastes funny to me. Thankfully, I found some dark chocolate cocoa powder that made the cookies rich and packed with flavor. With the dry ingredients mixed, blend them into the batter.

Now that I had a rich batter, I removed the bowl from the mixer and added chips. Since the cookies were already dark, I opted for a swirled chocolate chip, with white chocolate and semi-sweet. I suppose the cookies could have been called “triple chocolate” for that very reason. Usually, I see these cookies with walnuts or macadamias. Instead, I used a half-cup of blanched almonds. The almonds blended with the almond liquor perfectly, and complimented the dark chocolate well. Mix the chips and nuts, and then bake them the same way as the Kahlua chocolate chip cookies. 10-12 minutes on greased sheets, rounded tablespoons an inch-and-a-half apart.

With the cookies baked, I met my aunts Karlyn Spencer and Nancy Alexander with my cousin Laura Sanborn for dinner. Afterwards, we headed to Fairholme for the main event live. With chocolate as far as the eye could see, we dived right in sampling the contributions from around the community. I could not pick a favorite, though Hawkins made the suggestion of serving milk next year. Hawkins always his sweets with milk. Truthfully, with chocolates and cookies as far as the eye could see, it might have been a nice addition. I hope he suggests it to Jean and Paula for next year.

With family, friends and of course chocolate, a very good time was had by all, though I suspect I may be checking into the “Thin Club” sooner than later. Good eating.
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