Sunday, June 15, 2014

After Eight Cookies

It took a while for the combination of mint and chocolate to win me over.

When all the kids were swooning over mint chocolate chip ice cream cones, I was happy with my double chocolate choice or probably went for a hot fudge sundae - I prided myself as a purist.

Mint chocolate chip was definitely a favourite flavour among kids when I worked at Baskin Robbins. 

Over time I learned to like it - especially with fresh mint. I make a brownie with fresh chopped mint in it and it is mind-blowing. I'll have to share it with you some day.

The key to this flavour combination working for me is using very dark bittersweet chocolate (not surprising here on this blog...). It has to contain at least 70% cocoa solids and the overall recipe shouldn't be too sweet. Since mint is already a rather "sweet" herb, it becomes over-whelming and nearly sickly when paired with too much sugar.

What does 70% cocoa mean?

Cocoa solids are what make chocolate, chocolate. They are the ground up components of the cocoa nib - the seed of the fruit that chocolate is made of. These beans are fermented and roasted and then ground to a paste called cocoa liquor. Cocoa liquor is essentially the same as cocoa solids and consists of two components: cocoa mass (cocoa powder) and cocoa butter. So, if chocolate is sold as 70% cocoa, it means it contains 70% combined cocoa mass and cocoa butter, and the remaining 30% is mostly sugar, as well as maybe some flavourings like vanilla, a pinch of salt and an emulsifier called soy lecithin.

Having said this, white chocolate is not really chocolate as it does not contain any cocoa mass. I used to despise white chocolate for this reason, shunning it for not really containing any cocoa. Pfffffttt!! However, I have an appreciation for the wonderful fat that is cocoa butter and have learned to love good quality white chocolate as I have learned to love a masterful combination of mint and chocolate.

I never liked (and still don't like) mint candies as we know them mainly enjoyed by grandma's on the bus or during mass - that sharp crinkling noise from the wrapper pierces through the silence of prayer and always makes me laugh. Gotta keep that blood sugar regular! 

So, milk chocolate + mint doesn't work for me. These cookies, they work for me.

They come together in a pinch and combine the exciting flavours of dark chocolate, coffee and mint - everything you need after a good meal.

You only need 2/3 cup of brown sugar for a delicate sweetness, but a generous 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate for an intense cocoa hit! A shy shot of espresso complements the robustness of cocoa and keeps the sweetness at bay.

These cookies have a lovely soft and delicate texture that nearly melts in your mouth. That's because there's almost as much chocolate in them as there is flour!

This recipe is just like life - let chocolate reign in high proportions and you will find success. Or, something like that...

PS - Happy Father's Day Daddy-O! I'm sure if you were around me right now, these cookies would no longer be. I admire your eyes that are just as large as your stomach! xox

After Eight Cookies
Makes 24 cookies

170 g/6 oz bittersweet chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa), chopped
6 tbsp (84 g) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (145 g) packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp peppermint extract
1 tbsp espresso or strong coffee
1 ¼ cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C. Line two large baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.

Gently melt chocolate in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and let cool.

In a medium mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg until well combined. Stir in espresso and peppermint extract (I dissolve about a teaspoon of high quality dried coffee into a tablespoon of water). Stir in melted and cooled chocolate. Add flour, baking soda and salt and stir it in gently until just combined.

Cover the dough in the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for just 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it as it will firm up quickly as the chocolate sets. Roll heaped tablespoons of dough into balls and place on prepared baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Flatten the dough balls slightly and bake 8-10 minutes, or until cracked and speckled on top. Serve with peppermint tea!

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