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In Good Taste

Terroir is an annual hospitality industry symposium that brings together chefs, winemakers, food writers, sommeliers, farmers, servers, and other lovers of food and vino, for a jam-packed day of speakers, seminars, tastings and networking. Taking place at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, the big day started with a field-to-table buffet cooked by chef Michael Potters and crew from Angeline’s in Prince Edward County. Not only did chef Potters collect his own eggs for the spread, “healthy eggs from healthy chickens,” as he said, but he also made his own nitrate-free ham and bacon, no doubt from a happy pig. “Local to me means 10 miles,” said the chef, eschewing the regular old 100-mile meal ideal.

There’s nothing I like more than a nice glass of Riesling, so I was quick to sign up for the Riesling Kamp, a tasting and talk put together by Charles Baker of Charles Baker Riesling. It started with master sommelier John Szabo filling us in on the history of the grape and moved onto Cave Spring’s Tom Pennachett's fact-filled geology lesson. This led into a videotaped yet totally enchanting message from the steep slopes of Germany’s wine region, by Riesling star Nik Weis, then finished off with a chat with Randall Graham, of Boony Doon Vineyard, who many credit with making it cool to drink Riesling in North America. “Riesling has the most transparent character for terroir,” he said. After sipping my way through six glasses of stellar examples, which ran from Niagara to Germany to California, I had to agree. (Yay Riesling!)

Playing into the fun, casual vibe of the day was the brown bag “secret lunch”, where six of the city’s best chefs, among them Donna Dooher of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, Jamie Kennedy of Gilead Café, and Scott and Rachelle Vivian of Beast, lovingly filled paper lunch sacks with containers of warm deliciousness. My lucky pick was a curried chicken and rice dish with raita, by Aman Patel of the Indian Rice Factory. Mini bottles of VQA wines were supplied by Chateau des Charmes and Cave Springs Cellars. (Yay, more wine!)

The afternoon session I attended was called The World of Steak, a structured beef tasting led by Mark Schatzker, the author of Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef (2010 Viking). Just as we learned with the Rieslings, Schatzker explained: “You can taste the terroir in the steak.” (Turns out this fab symposium was aptly named!) I happened to plunk myself down at the table where all of the ranch owners were gathered, including the nice folks from the local YU Ranch, and First Light Waygu from New Zealand. “Keep an open mind,” said Schatzker as we bit into our first bites of commodity beef (the baseline strip of beef). “Think about the way steak tastes. Is it juicy? Is tenderness overrated?” He said to think about the tasting notes, like wine. “A pretty good steak can taste okay,” he said, “but then a great steak lands on your plate and it’s life-changing.” The Waygu, the YU Ranch and the Scotch Mountain Meats steaks were all rare, juicy, incredible cuts that filled the mouth with beefy flavour. (Yay steak!)

The day ended with keynote speaker Fergus Henderson, the groundbreaking nose-to-tail chef and owner of the famed St. John Bar & Restaurant in London, U.K. I must admit to missing much of what he said as I couldn’t hear so well at the back of the packed room, but he wowed the crowd with tidbits such as, “Trends in food lends itself to chaos. Sadness.” And, “It’s lunch. What could be better?” And finally, “Spread your cheffy wings and fly: There’s so much more out there. Don’t sleep under the stove.”

Words to live by.

For more of my adventures in foodie events, read up on The Wine Establishment blog post.

Photo credits:
Amy Rosen

Baby bok choy, I feel like a fool. There you were, all those years, yet I never paid you the attention you so richly deserved.

Sure, I’ve enjoyed your crunchy, watery texture and mild, springy taste in Toronto’s Chinatown and beyond, tossed into a stir-fry and braised as your very own dish. But I can’t remember the last time I bought you raw and took you home.

Until late last month, when suddenly there you were, right above the red peppers and the bean sprouts, same as always. Yet suddenly I couldn’t say no to you. Not anymore.

A few days later you showed up in The New York Times (of all places). You were having quite the week, baby bok choy!

So how did I prepare you? I dunked you into simmering water for about two minutes, then drained and tossed you with a bit of hoisin sauce, some tamari, and a few drops of sesame oil. Then I sprinkled you with toasted sesame seeds to make you look pretty and to give you that nutty edge.

And now you’re my new go-to side dish when I make stir-fry and rice.

Baby bok choy: This is your year.

Simple Baby Bok Choy Recipe

(serves 1)

5 baby bok choy
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Step 1: Set a pot of water on to a boil, lower to simmer and then dunk washed baby bok choy in and cook for two minutes.

Step 2: Drain and pat dry, then while still hot, toss with hoisin, soy and sesame oil, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.

For more recipes with bok choy, try Bacon & Bok Choy Chow Mein or Baby Bok Choy With Oyster Sauce.

Photo credit:
Amy Rosen

How’s this for a 10-minute dazzler? All you need are a few basic ingredients and the will to make a quick and unexpectedly delicious dish.

Get out a package of sliced cremini mushrooms and a knob of butter. Put a medium pan on medium-high heat. Drop in the butter, let it foam, add the mushrooms and season everything up. In goes the booze — a touch of vermouth — and then that leftover bit of whipping cream you’ve got in the back of the fridge, the dregs from that show-stopping dessert you made a couple of weeks ago.

All of a sudden it smells like company’s coming!

Within a few minutes more it’ll be all creamy and earthy and, wait, what’s that? That’s the cayenne speaking, you sly devil.

Finish with a pop of fresh parsley and spoon your creamy mushrooms over crisped baguette slices, or twirl them into pasta, or serve over chicken. (Tip: If you want to go even more over the top, should you have some white truffle oil on hand, drizzle the tiniest bit into the mix. Heady stuff.)

Mushrooms and booze and cream and herbs: It takes so little to do so much.

Creamy Mushrooms Recipe

(serves 3-4)

1 8 oz. package cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp butter
Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry vermouth or cognac
1/4 cup whipping cream (35%)
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Step 1: Add butter to a medium pan, let it melt and foam, then add mushrooms and season with a bit of salt, pepper and cayenne. Let them cook together for a couple of minutes.

Step 2: Add a good couple of glugs of dry vermouth or cognac, and let the liquid absorb, leach back out, then reduce down again to almost nothing. Pour cream in the pan, mix it with the mushrooms and juices and let it reduce down again to a nice sauce-like consistency. Taste for seasoning, add a pop of parsley and a touch of truffle oil at the end, and you’re done.

Click here for more recipes with mushrooms.

Photo credit:
Amy Rosen

In our continuing exploration of in-season and often under-used vegetables, say hello to celeriac, a.k.a. celery root.

With a face that only a mother celeriac could love, this has got to be one of the uglier vegetables in the produce aisle. That said, it’s also one of the tastiest.

Making this celery root recipe marked the first time I had ever cooked with celeriac. I was a total novice, I’ll admit. But I wasn’t nervous.

I figured, it’s a root vegetable, how difficult could this be?

Once I cut away at its gnarly exterior, I found it to be creamy white on the inside. I nibbled at it raw and noticed it had a mild celery flavour that would instantly perk up boring old mashed potatoes — with the potatoes being a supporting cast member, not the main player.

After a bit of peeling and dicing, then some boiling and mashing, the ugly duckling emerged a swan.

Celery Root Mash Recipe

(serves 4)

1 celery root (or celeriac)
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Slice off all the bumpy, dirty outer skin of the celery root until you only have white flesh. Rinse, then chop into medium chunks. Put in a large pot and cover with cold water. Pop on the lid and bring to a boil, then partially remove lid, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Step 2: Peel and cut potatoes into likewise chunks, and add to the pot of cooking celeriac. Cook for another 30 minutes, or until celeriac and potatoes are both completely soft.

Step 3: Drain into a colander, then add them back to the pot. Mash together, or use a ricer for a perfectly smooth consistency. Add butter and stir thoroughly, then add salt and pepper to taste. (It may seem like a lot of butter, but the butter makes it.)

For more root vegetable recipes, click here.

Photo credits:
Amy Rosen

As a continuation from my last blog post about diet books (again, happy New Year!) here are three more food books that recently landed on my desk. This isn’t an endorsement (or non endorsement); as with all lifestyle books, it’s about gleaning an informed opinion and choosing what suits you and your growing rump.

1. Superfoods (2010 Firefly Books)

The subtitle of this book says it all: “The healthiest foods on the planet”. And that’s what this book, by Tonia Reinhard, is all about. In full colour detail, 200 beneficial foods are divided into chapters including legumes, nuts and oils, meats, seafood and dairy foods, grains, and more. Not a bad idea to leaf through and then throw a few of these “superfoods” into your grocery cart each week. In other words, hello gogi berry, wheat germ, and pumpkinseed pancakes! Note: There are no recipes in this book; I just made that one up. Hey, maybe I should write a superfoods cookbook. I’ll be rich! Oh wait, it already exists. Darn.

2. Crazy Sexy Diet (2011 Globe Pequot Press)

With a blurb by Dr. Oz, a forward by Dr. Dean Ornish and a preface from Rory Freedman, the coauthor of Skinny Bitch (2005 Running Press), this book, written by Kris Carr, has some serious diet pedigree behind it. That said, it’s a hodge-podge of testimonials and ideas, written in a you-go-grrrl conspiratorial tone, including chapters with titles like Tushie & Milk Mustaches, in which she basically tells readers to ditch all animal products. Consider this, for instance: “Are you ready for the Crazy Sexy Truth about meat and dairy? Of course you are! You’re a fearless Wellness Warrior full of rebellion and fire.” The last chapter in the book is a 21-day cleanse, followed by some recipes for things like cabbage hemp salad. Get the picture?

Get two recipes from Crazy Sexy Diet!
Raw Soup
Buddha Bowl

3. Lunch To Go (2010 Oxmoor House)

Compiled by the editors at Cooking Light magazine, this snappy little book is a good way to get your New Year’s resolutions off to a healthy start. I happen to know that since I’ve started working at House & Home magazine, my lunchtime caloric intake has increased exponentially (there’s just so much good food to eat on King Street West!). This book helps on that front, by including “80 simple, satisfying, time-saving dishes,” from hearty Tuscan tuna sandwiches to coconut crab and shrimp salad and even butterscotch blondies for dessert. Looks like the nearby sushi, poutine and sandwich joints will have to do without me for the next little while.

For three more of my top diet books, read my previous blog post.

Photo credits:
1. Superfoods (2010 Firefly Books), from Firefly Books
2. Crazy Sexy Diet (2011 Globe Pequot Press), from Globe Pequot Press
3. Lunch To Go (2010 Oxmoor House), from Amazon

Happy 2011 everyone! In other words, happy diet month! I should start by admitting that as a general rule, I’m against most diets, simply because I don’t think they work. Sure, you may lose weight at first, but in the end you usually pack it back on — and then some.

I know I’m not the first to tell you that exercise and moderation (read: portion control) are the keys to long lasting weight loss and maintenance, but then again, I’m no expert.

On that note, let’s turn to some of the diet books that have been piling up on my desk that I’ve been putting aside for just such an occasion. I’ll blog about my other top picks in my next post — along with recipes from one of the top-sellers. Here are three to get you started.

1. How Not to Get Fat (2010 Firefly Books)

It’s too bad the cover is so ugly; the interior of this book by Ian Marber, a.k.a. “the food doctor”, a diet consultant out of the U.K., is quite cheerful and well laid out. The book aims to show people how to eat properly, whether they want to lose weight, or not get fat in the first place. It’s mostly about common sense, including explanations on how the body works, how to cue into hunger signals and, basically, how to avoid a life of dieting. A good read if you’re looking for the basics.

2. The Carb Lovers Diet (2010 Oxmoor House)

From the editors at Health magazine — who, it appears, are fed up with the carb-phobic American population (hooray!) — this books claims that you can eat what you love and stay slim for life, while losing 15, 35, or even 100-plus pounds without ever feeling hungry. What their research has found is that certain carb-rich foods, especially those with an ingredient known as “resistant starch”, will do all sorts of nifty things, from suppressing the appetite to boosting the metabolism. There’s a seven day kick-start plan, before-and-after photos, testimonials, and a bunch of recipes that seem to feature whole grains and breads like sourdough and rye.

3. The Biggest Loser Food Journal (2010 Rodale Books)

Put together by the hit reality show’s experts and cast, this small spiral-bound book lets you play along with Biggest Loser members, who are required to keep a food journal on the show; part of a healthy habit they’re meant to maintain for life. Tracking every meal, snack and beverage makes you more mindful of what you’re shoving down your gullet. While the book contains info on portion size, an appendix of calorie counts of common foods, and a few recipes, this is mostly a journal for jotting down what you ate and what you did for exercise. And it may just be the simple boost you need.

Check back in on January 19th for more diet books and recipes.

P.S. I was chuffed to hear that this In Good Taste blog is nominated in the Canadian Food Blog Awards. Visit Beer and Butter Tarts for links to all kinds of other great blogs, as well!

Photo credits:
1. How Not to Get Fat (2010 Firefly Books), from Firefly Books
2. The Carb Lovers Diet (2010 Oxmoor House), from Amazon
3.
The Biggest Loser Food Journal (2010 Rodale Books), from NBC

DIY Wine

December 29, 2010

H&H food editor Amy Rosen and I have been hard at work making our first batch of homemade, or rather, office-made wine with the Artful Winemaker kit.

“3 easy steps, 28 days, 12 incredible bottles of wine — satisfaction guaranteed!” read the instructions. Amy and I were pretty excited by this promise, but as with all products and recipes featured in H&H, we felt it our duty to do a full product testing before we endorsed it.

For starters, the suggestion that you can make wine in three easy steps simply isn’t true. Upon reading the directions you’ll find that there are four stages: Assembly and sanitizing, mixing and fermenting, stabilizing, and finally, bottling. Each stage is comprised of about ten steps, and none of them would be described as easy.

Still, over the course of 28 days, Amy and I only put in a few hours of work, which isn’t much to end up with 11 bottles of quaffable wine! I say 11 bottles, not the promised 12, because on our first day on the job, we — okay, I — glazed over the directions and managed to skip step two, something about a red semicircular seal being properly positioned…what red seal? Oh, that red seal — the one that Amy accidentally tossed in her garbage can?!). The result was major leakage and some lost vino. Purple juice was pooling all over the kitchen counter until we fixed the leak. You must read all the directions — okay, lesson learned.

With the hard part over (the waiting), the wine was easily bottled and labeled using the cute labels included in the kit. Not to boast, but it all looks pretty professional. It tastes, well, not exactly professional, but definitely more than adequate. I might suggest serving this wine as the third bottle at a dinner party — or just keep it under your desk for those tough mornings!

I want to thank the folks at Artful Winemaker for sending us the kit (it retails for $100), and for giving our office the chance to have some fun with this project. Not a day went by without someone stopping at my desk with a quizzical look:

“What is it?”

“Should it be bubbling like that?”

“Are you sure you’re allowed to make wine in our office?” they asked.

And thanks to the Artful Winemaker, my popularity at H&H has skyrocketed, as I became the official wine sponsor at my department’s Christmas party. Here’s Amy and I enjoying the fruits of our labour.

“It’s not as bad as I thought it might be,” said one editor. Swirling their glasses and sniffing the bouquet, the others agreed it was the best homemade wine they had ever had.

And in the end, the experience gave Amy and I some serious bonding time, which is what good wine always does best.

Consider the Artful Winemaker kit officially endorsed.

See the Wine & Cheese Guide for wine serving tips and complementary recipes.

Photo credits:
1-4. Leslie Williams
5. Katie Gougeon

Photo Blog Grenada Island Trip Beach

Just as most of us are about to freeze our tootsies off during the holidays, I thought I’d rub it in by bringing you back to a recent trip I took, in the toasty climes of Grenada, where I was researching a story. Part of my, um, responsibilities included a visit to the popular wharf-side restaurant, BB’s Crabback Caribbean Restaurant.

Photo Blog Grenada Island Trip Chef

Photo Blog Grenada Island Trip Bananas

The chef, Brian Benjamin (BB), leads hands-on cooking classes (above). For $100, you get schooled in all of the island’s tropical indigenous ingredients while cooking in the restaurant’s wee kitchen. “It’s an opportunity for people to cook with foods they’ve never seen,” explains the cheerful chef, who launched the classes when “the yacht people” wanted to get to know the local food a little better.

Photo Blog Grenada Island Trip Spinach

Photo Blog Grenada Island Trip Fish

We cooked up callaloo (a dark leafy green, like spinach), breadfruit (the texture is akin to a chestnut), shadow benny (a wild herb that tastes like cilantro) and dasheen (a starchy tuber). We made salt fish souse and fry bread, fresh fried red snapper and BB’s most popular appetizer, crabback (local land crabs stuffed and fried to creamy deliciousness). BB honed our techniques, too. “You’ve got to be more ruthless with it,” he said to one of our student kitchen troops who kneaded the fry-bread dough too gingerly.

After a couple of shvitzy hours of cooking and laughing, we sat down to eat all of our Grenadian dishes and drink the afternoon away as a tropical rain shower swept through the open-air dining room. “Try it with some of my homemade hot sauce,” BB said with a smile as wide as the islands’ sandy white beaches. “It makes it more lively.”

Chef Brian Benjamin’s Callaloo Soup

(serves 4)

4 tbsp butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
450 g callaloo (or substitute two 325 g bags of spinach), chopped and washed but don’t shake off the water
5-6 okra, finely chopped, with coarse tops removed
2 oz. coconut cream
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp sugar
1 cup water
Salt and black pepper to taste

Step 1: Heat the butter in a large pot and add the onion. Sauté until soft, then add the garlic and cook until softened but not browned.

Step 2: Add the callaloo (or spinach) and okra, coconut cream, thyme and sugar. Cover with a tightly fitting lid and allow to cook for about 30 minutes or until soft.

Step 3: Remove the thyme and blend in processor, blender or immersion blender.

Step 4: Return soup to pan, add 1 cup water and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.

If you like hot Caribbean dishes, try one of our spicy recipes.

Photo credits:
Amy Rosen

Tempering chocolate determines its final gloss and hardness — that professional hard shell coating on a perfect truffle or bonbon. When you melt chocolate, the molecules of fat separate. Putting them back together is to “temper” it. The most common way to do this is over a hot water bath, slowly melting and stirring until the chocolate reaches the magic 88 to 90°F sweet spot (31-32°C). At this point, some of the chocolate is usually poured onto a cold marble slab and spread around with a spatula so that it partially cools, before blending it together with the rest of the warm chocolate still in the bowl.

Photo Blog Chocolate Macaroons Dessert Holidays

In short, this is something that I never, ever planned to do. I’d leave that to the pros. But then I met pastry chef and chocolatier Derrick Tu Tan Pho, who is the director of the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. He was in Toronto to spread the word about Cacao Barry, the new one-kilo boxes of professional style chocolate couvertures. But these easily measured, high-quality chocolate buttons are beside the point if you don’t know how to use them properly.

So, here’s the chef’s foolproof method for tempering chocolate (in the microwave!) using about one kilo of chocolate.

1. Pour chocolate couvertures, or other high quality chocolate chopped into equal pieces, in a microwave-proof bowl.

2. Microwave for 30 seconds on high (all temps on high).

3. Give a quick stir, and microwave for another 30 seconds.

4. Give another quick stir, then microwave for another 30 seconds. This time, mix well for one minute.

5. Then microwave for 10 seconds. Stir. Microwave for 10 seconds more. Stir. Then five seconds. Stir. Then a final five seconds. This adds up to 4 x 30 seconds. And in the end, after a good final stirring, your chocolate should be glossy and perfect. Using a thermometer, check that it hits the above mentioned 88-90°F.

Use this method for enrobing your favourite holiday treats, or making bark or brittle.

Don’t feel up to tempering chocolate at all? Well then, try out this great Cacao Barry recipe for Chocolate Macarons.

Photo Blog Chocolate Macaroons Dessert Holidays

Chocolate Macarons With Ganache Recipe

(makes 60 macarons)

Macaron Batter
7 egg whites
1/3 cup powdered sugar, plus 3 cups
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups almond powder
6 tbsp Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder

Dark Chocolate Ganache
1 cup 35% cream
1-1/2 cup Cacao Barry Saint-Domingue Dark Chocolate Couverture
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Macaron Batter

Step 1: Preheat oven to 300°F.

Step 2: In a bowl, beat the egg whites, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, and lemon juice until firm.

Step 3: Sift the 3 cups powdered sugar, almond powder and cocoa powder over the whipped egg whites.

Step 4: Mix with a spatula until malleable and shiny.

Step 5: Using a pastry bag and tip, form small balls on a silicone baking mat placed on a baking sheet.

Step 6: Set aside 20 minutes, and then cook at 300°F for 12 minutes in a convection oven or 15 minutes in a conventional oven.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Step 1: Put the chocolate in a bowl and set aside.

Step 2: In a pot, heat the cream until just simmering. Pour over the chocolate.

Step 3: Using a whisk, incorporate the butter, at room temperature, until the ganache is very smooth.

Step 4: Once the ganache and macarons are cooled, pipe the ganache between two macarons and chill for 24 hours before serving.

Learn how to make Claire Tansey’s Ultimate Chocolate Ganache on our Online TV show. Or for more ideas, see our Decadent Chocolate Recipes.

Photo credits:
1. ©istockphoto.com
2. Cacao Barry

Carrot cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, apple pie: I think we can all agree that these are classic, timeless desserts. But what makes them so?

Photo Blog Chocolate Whoopie Pies Book

Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented (2010 Stewart, Tabori & Chang) is a new cookbook based on recipes from Baked, a Brooklyn bakery opened by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, who left their day jobs in corporate advertising to pursue their dream of opening a bakery. An out-of-the-gate success, they have since opened another Baked in Charleston, South Carolina, and their gooey goodies can now be found in stores like Whole Foods. The bakers and cookbook authors have been featured on the Today show, the Food Network, and The Martha Stewart Show. Their sweet and salty brownie is Oprah’s favourite. Their success is largely based on the popularity of the type of nostalgia-inducing treats (brownies, blondies and the like) that they sell at their shops, so I asked Baked’s Matt Lewis, why it is that some desserts achieve cult status while others fizzle in the baking pan.

Photo Blog Chocolate Whoopie Pies Bakers

“Generally speaking, I think baked goods that are highly adaptable (in terms of flavours, design, etc…) have the most ease in transitioning into an omnipresent bakery item,” explains Lewis. “Cupcakes, whoopie pies, and macaroons are examples of baked goods that have many variations — you can swap fillings and frostings with ease, and people adjust them to their preferred palette or regional sourcing (seasonal local fruits, chocolate, caramel, etc....).”

On the other hand, he says there are some fantastic regional cult desserts that might not spread across the country (or internationally) simply because they don’t lend themselves to interpretations (after all, there’s not much you can do with an NYC Black & White Cookie), or the main ingredient is hard to source (read: Cloudberry Pie).

Luckily, the whoopie pie is both adaptable and its key ingredients are easy to find. Here’s a recipe for this timeless classic from Baked Explorations.

Photo Blog Chocolate Whoopie Pies Dessert

Chocolate Whoopie Pies Recipe

(makes 10-12 large or 15-17 small pies)*

* I am hesitant to place a typical yield amount on this recipe. I encountered so many large, sandwich-size whoopie pies during my travels that mini whoopies seem disingenuous. Still, the final recipe is written for smaller whoopies. If you aim for the larger version, you will need to increase the cooking time by a few minutes.

Chocolate Cookies
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1-1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
2 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 cup hot coffee
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken

Swiss Vanilla Filling
5 large egg whites
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” cubes, cool but not cold
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Cookies

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Step 2: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, and set aside.

Step 3: In another large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and espresso powder. Add the hot coffee and 1/2 cup hot water and whisk until both powders are completely dissolved.

Step 4: In a medium bowl, stir the brown sugar and oil together. Add this to the cocoa mixture and whisk until combined. Add the egg, vanilla and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.

Step 5: Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as you fold.

Step 6: Use a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets about 1” apart. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cookie comes out clean. Let the cookies cool completely on the pan while you make the Swiss Vanilla Filling.

Swiss Vanilla Filling

Step 1: In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar together (remember to substitute the sugar for the optional peanut butter filling**).

Step 2: Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water but do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the colour is a milky white, about 2-3 minutes.

Step 3: Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle attachment. Add the cubed butter and beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the buttercream looks like it is breaking, don’t worry, it will eventually come together.

Step 5: Add the salt and vanilla and beat for 5 seconds to combine.

Step 6: To assemble the pies, turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up). Use an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop a large dollop of filling onto the flat side of the cookie. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

The whoopie pies will keep for up to 3 days, on a parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Bring the whoopies to room temperature before serving.

** Variation: Replace the sugar with 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed tightly). Fold in 1/4 cup unsalted smooth peanut butter after adding the vanilla extract.

Click here for more delicious dessert recipes.

Photo credits:
1-3. Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented (2010 Stewart, Tabori & Chang), photography by Tina Rupp

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