Okay, so technically this blog is about food history… which means that technically today’s blog is a little bit off-topic. But whenever chocolate’s involved, I say there are no rules; anything goes. And this weekend, I was involved in chocolate. Lots and lots of glorious chocolate.
Recently I discovered that our local Sur La Table cooking store offers cooking classes. Hidden in the back of the store there’s a fully equipped kitchen classroom, complete with student butcher blocks, sinks, refrigerator, stove, and an array of fabulous cooking tools. When I stumbled upon the classroom, a group of eager students were listening intently as a chef instructor taught them knife skills. I watched as the chef demonstrated his julienne technique. Video cameras were trained on his skillful hands and every movement was magnified on two large HD monitors. Stations were set up throughout the classroom, so that students could try the techniques hands-on under the guidance of the chef and his cooking assistants.
Intrigued, I grabbed the schedule for February and looked over the list of classes. One class in particular caught my eye:
“Chocolate Workshop with Chef Martin Gilligan.”
That night, I registered for the class online. Since there was no age requirement, I also signed up my 11 year-old stepdaughter and her two best friends (all of whom are choco-holics). I was a bit worried that the class might be boring for them, but I figured we’d give it a try and see.
We arrived not really knowing what to expect. There were about 20 students; my stepdaughter and her friends were by far the youngest. Chef Martin actively engaged the kids in his teaching, which definitely made it more exciting for them. The lecture at the beginning of class was informative, though it ran a bit long. While he was talking, he gave the girls the task of dipping strawberries into some freshly melted chocolate, which helped the time pass more quickly for them. After that, the hands-on portion of the class began.
The workshop taught seven different chocolate desserts. We were encouraged to dive right in and pick a recipe, which we would make ourselves. Ingredients were pre-measured, so all we had to do was follow the recipe. The girls and I chose Chocolate Sandwich Cookies. The chef’s assistants were on hand for any questions that came up, and the chef himself guided us through some of the more difficult techniques. We were also encouraged to observe as other people worked on their recipes. It was a fantastic class. We left with a basic understanding of chocolate cooking techniques, along with some yummy treats we made ourselves.
Chef Martin encouraged us to share the information we’d learned with our friends. So today, I’m going to share the recipe we made. If you haven’t worked with chocolate in the past, I highly recommend you take Chef Martin’s class (or another chocolate workshop) before trying this. He broke down the chocolate preparation techniques for us very clearly. Chocolate can be a tricky substance to cook and bake with. I’m sure if we’d tried this recipe without the guidance of Sur La Table, we would have gotten lost pretty quickly. Luckily, Chef Martin and his assistants walked us through it. We ended up with some really cute, tasty little chocolate treats!
One quick side note: I know this recipe sounds ridiculously large (100 cookies? seriously?), but the cookies are meant to turn out bite-sized, like this:
CHOCOLATE SANDWICH COOKIES
Yield: makes about 100 sandwiches
These cookies taste best when made and filled 1 day ahead.
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (3/4 cup), softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 whole large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
3 oz fine-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, melted, and cooled
2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped, melted, and cooled
2 large eggs
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into bits
4 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer
1) Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl until combined.
2) Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with a paddle attachment) or 4 minutes with a handheld. Add whole eggs, yolks, and chocolate, beating until combined. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture and mix until combined well.
3) Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
4) Drop teaspoons of batter 1 inch apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are puffed up, 7 to 8 minutes total, then transfer with a metal spatula to racks to cool completely. Cool baking sheets and make more cookies with remaining dough on cooled sheets.
5) Whisk together eggs, confectioners sugar, butter, and chocolate in top of a double boiler or a large metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water and cook, whisking, until a thermometer registers 170 degrees F. Remove top of double boiler (or bowl) from pot and set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water, then stir occasionally until cold. Remove from ice water and beat with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
6) Spread ½ teaspoon filling on flat side of 1 cookie, then place flat side of a second cookie over filling to form a sandwich. Fill remaining cookies in the same manner.
Cook’s note: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 4 days.
Recipe Adapted from Gourmet
Kosher Key: Dairy