Saturday, September 5, 2015

My Oh My Oh Mallowmars! (Part III)

Leaving the cookie dilemma behind for just a moment, I had to turn my attention to the next big hurdle for this custom designed treat. 

Briefly, A Note About The Cookie Dilemma

In a word, I was exhausted! I made so many cookies, which were good but not right, in such a short time, that I was all cookied-out. The chocolate had to be easier, right? Right?

Briefly, A Note About The Cookie Dilemma Ends 

Yeah. Right. Easier. I had three (3) challenges to overcome with the chocolate: 1) sweetness, 2) thickness of the coating, and 3) hardness of the chocolate coating. One thing at a time. To address the sweetness, I figured I'd need to test different kinds of chocolate. Please to observe:

Come on! I had to use Baker's brand, right?
I needed to establish where Michele's tastes fell when combining chocolate and marshmallow. So, I sacrificed some of the marshmallows I'd given her for toasting (another post, for sure) to test the above three.

The line-up.
Suspect number 1.

Suspect number 2.
Suspect number 3.
After sampling the line-up, the witness...I mean Michele...determine that none of them had the means to achieve the proper balance. Simultaneously, though, both of us concluded that a mixture of the unsweetened and the bittersweet would probably do the trick. And it did. Number one out of the way. Two to go.

I kind of had to tackle number three out of sequence because it was more important to get the right formulation to make the chocolate hard at room temperature. I've been reading on-and-off about tempering chocolate for just such a purpose but have had little luck in recreating the results of others, no matter what recipe I used – and I used two or three different ones for this cookie. All the attempts yielded a tacky, sticky coating at best, and a gooey mess that defied being handled at worse. (Well, that's not quite the worst case, but we'll leave that alone.) 

There are recipes that call for using vegetable oil, butter, or melted shortening. These did not do the trick for me. There are techniques which require a marble slab (which I no longer own), chilled, and lots of spatula work. No way was I going to go down that road. I am crazy but I won't be that crazy until I am working out of my dream kitchen.

After all these attempts completely failed to yield the right chocolate consistency/hardness, I told Michele that it might be impossible for me to design this cookie for her. If I couldn't get this one element right, with my current skill set and equipment, then it really didn't make sense to continue working on it. I'd have to wait until I grew up a little more as a confectioner. She understood but hated to see all the work I'd done up to this point go to waste.

That made me smile because, as I told her, none of this was a waste because I'd taught myself a lot of valuable lessons, even in my failures. Nope. Even if I couldn't make her the cookie she wanted, I'd have to consider this a win. A qualified win but a win nonetheless. 

I figured I'd give it one last try so I scoured my cookbooks for chocolate recipes and had one more consultation with The Google. That's when I came across the Cooking For Engineers Website, and a discussion about the very problem I was having. Confectionery science to the rescue! Finally someone laid things out for me in a way I could understand, and presented a solution that made sense to me! I was already clear on the concept of "seizing" chocolate but the underlying science of seeding the melted chocolate to help form the crystal structure necessary for tempering and, thus, hard shell at room temperature, new to me. 

I set things up and decided to use a variation on the double-boiler technique that I was familiar with. I created a hot water bath using two different sized Pyrex bowls, with the chocolate in the smaller bowl. The heated water melted the chocolate perfectly, even though it did take about fifteen or more minutes of stirring. Yes, this technique was a little tricky because of the proximity of the water to the chocolate, but I just felt I could work better that way. And the test I did on the remaining rejected digestive biscuits proved me right.
Dipped and hardening.
Once these had been sitting out for a couple of hours, I touched them and absolutely no chocolate came off on my finger. The covering was still soft but I new it would harden sufficiently for me to continue my quest!

I determined that number two, thickness of the coating, wasn't nearly as important as the chocolate sweetness and the shell hardness, so I just skipped it. 

Back to the cookie, which by now I was ready to figure out. I'd had a little epiphany after the digestive biscuit didn't work. I liked the recipe, so why not use all white flour instead of mixing it with the whole wheat flour? The dough would be easier for me to work with and it wouldn't yield a graham cracker, which wasn't what Michele wanted, anyway. Et voila! The biscuit cookie.

Exactly what Michele said she wanted in the first place!
The irony of ending up with what Michele had jokingly wanted at the beginning of this whole process was not lost on me. These were delicious and easy to make. Heck, they'd even be nice to spread a little jam on and just gobble up! They were also neutral enough with regards to sweetness that they'd work perfectly with the marshmallow and the chocolate. And they were tender to the bite but substantial enough to take the other two ingredients without going mushy. Time to assemble!

Biscuit cookies laid out.
The next problem to solve was how to actually get the marshmallow onto the cookies. Last time I let the marshmallow set and then used a cookie cutter to chop out cylinders of fluff to place of the cookies. Fail. This time I used another Alton Brown idea and put the freshly made marshmallow into a pastry bag and piped it onto the cookies. That way, I'd used the stickiness of the marshmallow to my benefit. Once set, the cookies would be much easier to dip into the chocolate.

A Disclosure:

I absolutely suck at using a pastry bag and decorating tips. Absolutely. Suck. I have no feel for them and generally make a huge mess when using them. If you asked me to decorate a cake, I'd tell you to take a long walk off a short pier. Despite that, I use a pastry bag to load up my ginger lemon cream cookies and decided that it was the way to go with these as well. By the time I'm done with this project I'll either throw away all my pastry bags and decorator tips or come away with techniques that I'm happy with.

A Disclosure Ends.

Piped-in marshmallows!
I waited three or four hours for the marshmallow to set before I dipped the cookies into the chocolate.

Set and dipped.

Take a closer look, why don't you?
As I discovered, once the chocolate finally set, it maintained a hard shell but lost the glossy sheen.

Hard shell, less sheen. Wait. No sheen!
That's a trade-off I could live with. And the absolute best part of all? Michele loved them! Her only further desires were: thinner cookie, if possible, and more marshmallow. Did I mention that my girl is just mad for marshmallow?

This definitely goes into the "Win" column. Michele-o-mars are now part of my baking repertoire and I am ecstatic!

One Last Note Regarding Pastry Bags:

I won't be throwing my decorating tips away. I will, however, be looking for larger bags to use. I need to load up as much marshmallow as possible so that I can pipe it onto the cookies before it sets up too much. Oh, and I finally began to see what techniques I'd need to master in order to get better at cake decorating, too. 

One Last Note Regarding Pastry Bags Ends.

Currently listening to: Dvořák • String Quartet no. 12 in F major, op. 96 "American" - I. Allegro ma non troppo - Emerson String Quartet



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