Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cocoa Wafers

Author's Note: My posting frequency at Mental Masala has been a bit lower than usual because I have been tied up writing a few guest posts for Ethicurean (a must-read blog if you care about sustainable and ethical food). One of the posts nearly swallowed me for a few weeks, as I became obsessed with finding out how much energy is required to grow and transport rice (read my post here). Although I don't know when another "rice obsession" will capture me, I will try to post more regularly. And now, on to the wafers...

When I wrote my list of favorite holiday cookies during the height of "cookie season 2005", I somehow missed the cocoa wafers from Alice Medrich's low-fat dessert book. Perhaps they didn't make the list because they are simple chocolate-colored disks that don't give off much holiday glow (cutting them in tree or star shapes might increase the glow).

Alice Medrich, chocolate expert and cookbook author, wrote "Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts" during the height of the low-fat craze of the mid-90s. In the book, she tried to completely rethink her recipes to achieve deliciousness with fewer calories and less fat, instead of simply writing a pamphlet that consisted of a few instructions like "replace butter with applesauce." In the months after I bought the book, I baked quite a few of the recipes, primarily the cookies and bars, with good success. The cocoa wafers, however, are a "go to" cookie that I make regularly.

Here is the recipe, along with several things that I have learned through experience. These are refrigerator slice and bake cookies, so you need to plan ahead a little bit.

Cocoa Wafers
Adapted from "Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts" by Alice Medrich

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa (see note 1 below)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature (see note 2)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white (see note 3)

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Combine the sugars in a bowl, pressing out any hard lumps of brown sugar. Beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy, then add the sugars and vanilla. Beat at high speed for about 1 minute then beat in the egg white. Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined.

Get a piece of parchment or waxed paper with length of about 16 inches. Lay it on a countertop. Gather the dough into a ball and roll it into a 9-10 inch log on the paper. Wrap the log with the paper, being careful to keep the ends flat. Chill for at least 45 minutes (or freeze for future use).

Place the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, a non-stick sheet (e.g., Silpat), or aluminum foil.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator (if frozen, let thaw until soft enough to cut). With a sharp knife, cut the chilled dough log into rounds a scant 1/4 inch thick. For crispier cookies, slice them thinner, down to 1/8 or 1/16 inch. Place slices 1 inch apart and bake for 10-14 minutes (or less if you sliced them very thinly). Rotate baking sheets about half way through from top to bottom and back to front.

Cool completely before storing or stacking.

Mint Chocolate Crisps - add 1/4 teaspoon mint extract with the butter.
Mexican Chocolate Cookies - add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (the flaky cinnamon sold in Mexican groceries is recommened), a generous pinch of black pepper, and a generous pinch of cayenne to the sugars. It might even be possible to replace the brown sugar with ground piloncillo (raw cane sugar) for even more Mexican flavor.
Double chocolate crisps - add a big handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips with the flours (about 1/2-1 cup). This makes the log a lot harder to slice, but gives the cookies an extra chocolate burst. You could also use

Make a double or triple batch and freeze the extra logs for a rainy day.

1) Dutch processed cocoa has a different pH (acidity level) than non-Dutched cocoa, so deviating from the type specified in a recipe can theoretically lead to unexpected results. I rarely follow the instruction for Dutch-processed cocoa and the results are always good. Perhaps this is an excuse to have a "test kitchen" match between Dutch processed and non-processed cocoa.
2) The original recipe called for 3 T. butter and 3 T. stick margarine. I never buy margarine, and don't want to eat it, so I always make the cookies with 100% butter.
3) I have had good luck using a single egg in a double batch instead two egg whites.

Random link from the archive: Three Mexican Sauces (February 2006)

Technorati tags: Chocolate : Food

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