Not all White Chocolate Melts…

As a followup to Spring Kookys, here’s a behind the scenes explanation of what I used for decorating, and why, with some photos.

With this batch I wanted to decorate the Kookys with more fluffy realism, have great flavor, using sweet but ‘nutritionally straightforward’ ingredients. I think I achieved that, but if I find something better I will try again. I also want to give umbrella Kookys another try and not have them fall apart at the handle.

But here’s what I have learned:

White Chocolate As Frosting/icing:

chipsvsWchocbar

I used melted Godiva chocolate bars flecked with vanilla beans as the base icing for these kookys (see glass on the right, above.

Why didn’t I just pick up white chocolate chips (see glass on the left, above)? Well, I’ve been burned by them in the past. Literally.

I order to achieve melted chocolate with the ideal consistency–fluid, glossy, yet quick to dry with a matte finish, you must have cocoa butter as an ingredient. This is true with traditional brown chocolate as well.

As I was saying, I learned this the hard way. I would buy white chips, and try to melt them in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, 30 seconds to one minute. First they weren’t melted after one rotation, then they were crumbly and turning brown in the second rotation. I recreated my results for this post. They didn’t burn this time, but they still look nasty after multiple rotations in the microwave; stirring doesn’t help (see image below):

nastywhitechipsmelted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first I thought adding butter or water might help, but it just made a bigger mess.

I researched the issue, and I learned that cocoa butter was the crucial ingredient. Then I went to multiple grocery store’s baking aisles to see if there were any white chips containing cocoa butter. Store brand, gourmet brand, it didn’t matter–none of them had it:

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And there is a product called CandiQuik and a White Bark Covering, but it’s a poor man’s fondue. It’s intended for dipping pretzels and such, like candy melting disks I used to see more frequently. [I am suspicious of any candy product that says “vanilla flavored candy” or “chocolate flavored candy”. If it’s not truly chocolate and had to be flavored that way, just what is it? What am I potentially eating or serving here?]

CDQingred

whitebarkingred

So I walked to the candy aisle, and along the top shelf there were white chocolate candy bars. Their label indicated they contained cocoa butter.

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So I bought it and gave it a shot. It worked like a charm, see below:

whitechocwithcocoabutter-beautiful

Not only does it look much better, but it does a job that the chips couldn’t.

This isn’t to say white chips aren’t good for chunky chocolate pieces in brownies, blondies or cookies; it is just to say, without cocoa butter, you can’t completely melt them for use as a liquid. It will not happen.

 

From what I’ve found, these chocolate brands have cocoa butter ingredient 100% of the time:

Green & Black; Hershey’s Bliss, Nuggets and Kisses; Dove; Perugina; Taste of Inspirations; Godiva; Lindt.

Chocolate brands that only sometimes have cocoa butter–basically it depends on the product type:

Ghiradelli, Nestle, ScharffenBerger

I did notice that Ghiradelli had “baking bars” that look like large candy bars and they contained cocoa butter;  Ghiradelli white chips do not. At the same time, Nestle had a white “baking bar”, but it nor the premier white chips contain cocoa butter. The only way to know for sure how packaged chocolate can be used for your next baking project is to check its ingredients list before buying it. Gourmet branding, the price, and vague product names don’t follow any consistent logic.

Prepared Frosting

Prepared frosting, whether it comes in a canister, a box, or a pouch, is really convenient and simple to use.  So are gel food colors. Unlike melted chocolate, frosting/icing it can thicken up and get a sugar crystalled skin on it, but it won’t harden like chocolate does unless its Cookie Glaze in a tube (like a runny fondant; when the cookie is chilled or left to set for an hour at room temperature, the glaze will harden).

But these products, Cookie Glaze included, have a lot of mystery chemical ingredients, like partially hydrogenated ‘schmeckle-zoink’ (thanks Mike Myers Coffee Talk) and other oddities in them.

Here’s some images of labels:

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These additives aid the color, the consistency, and the shelf life of the product, but they only hurt the health of the consumer, the more they are consumed over a lifetime. Think about all your birthday cakes, others’ birthday cakes, wedding cakes, job change cakes, anniversary cakes, romantic dessert cake. That’s a lot of artificial sweeteners and chemicals going into your system–and who knows, maybe they never really leave, they just build up over a lifetime.

Sugared Coconut

While I’m on the subject of baking aisle atrocities, store bought sugared coconut found in the baking aisle is not healthy either. The bags I see sold in stores are practically ‘sweating’ sugar and high fructose schmeckle-zoink. UGH. You can’t taste the coconut anymore.

Here’s some ingredients lists for those:

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SWTcoconut

I would swear propylene glycol is also used in hairspray. Wikipedia mentions its role in the dispersants used after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. There’s nothing sweet about the idea of eating that.

So I walked to the granola/organic foods/dried fruit aisle and found plain dried coconut for my Kookys.

organiccoconut

Below is an ingredient list I could get used to!

organiccoconutingreds

 

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How ‘She’ Does It cookies

This is a post that gives a nod to a great idea that wasn’t mine.

If you personally know someone who juggles a lot of activity—family, work, exercise, high-maintenance hair—seemingly without much help, they have to have tricks up their sleeve. This might be one of those tricks.

Let’s say you get a last minute request for snacks or bake sale items from a family member. Even if you love to bake, having to do it high volume and the on the spot can be complicated, dreadful and loathsome. What to do?

The trick is not baking cookies, or buying  pre-baked and pre-decorated sugar bombs from the store grocery.  It’s not even getting sticky with rice cereal marshmallow treats….It’s taking crunchy storebought cookies and making sandwich cookies out of them. This project is also convenient if you are living in temporary housing with no oven in sight, but you are invited to a party and need to bring a treat of some sort.

One of the many Christmas cookie magazines* that comes out every fall mentioned this pretty awesome tip , which I’ve expanded into more step-by-step list of instructions.

Buy:

  • Regular crunchy packaged cookies
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic sandwich and snack containers
  • Sandwich bags
  • A variety of flavored toppings: chocolate, Nutella, mocha frosting, other thick creamy frosting, peanut butter
  • Two (2) jars of marshmallow fluff
  • Pack of Cardstock or construction paper for stacking bags of prepped cookies later
  • Optional: sprinkles if you are feeling whimsical, or delirious, or both.
  1. Take it all home, unbag it, and clear a kitchen counter.
  2. Take the bowls or recyclable sandwich and snack containers out of their packaging and set them out individually, without a lid.
  3. Put at least two (2) dollops of marshmallow fluff in each bowl
  4. Add one (1) dollop of each flavor topping to each bowl.
  5. Mix each bowl with its own spoon.
  6. Put a clean butter knife, rubber or silicone spatula in each mixed topping fluff bowl.
  7. Put on the gloves.
  8. Split the cookies into pairs, and then divide the pairs evenly in among each topping fluff mix. Each type of flavor of frosting mixture gets its fair share of cookies.
  9. Spread the frosting mixture on the flat side of one cookie in each pair.
  10. Mush the flat side of the other cookie on top of the spread topping.
  11. Repeat until all cookies are proper sandwiches.
  12. If you bought sprinkles, pour them on a plate. Roll the frosting side of each sandwich in the sprinkles.
  13. Refrigerate cookies to let frosting get stiff, nonsticky and cool; about 20 minutes.
  14. Then take sandwich bags and put 2 pairs’* of cookies in each bag–*=its you or your project’s preference here.
  15. Stack them on a plate or in a large enough “to go” plastic container. IF you’re worried about the bags getting gooey from stacking, use cakeboard or sheets of cardstock between each layer of bagged cookies. Refrigerate overnight.
  16. Remove gloves.
  17. Rinse off what little cutlery and non-recyclable tableware you used to frost the cookies, put it in the dishwasher.
  18. If you used almost all recyclable sandwich containers, you can rinse and throw these in your big community recycling blue bin.  If your community has no recycle bin, wash and reuse the those sandwich containers or wash and pass them on to someone else in the future.
  19. ‘For godsakes get some sleep. The magazine didn’t suggest this but I don’t think they’d disagree either.
  20. In the morning, pull the plate of cookies out of the fridge. Put the bags of cookies in a plastic container if you haven’t already.
  21. Send them off to school or work with the person who requested them, with a gentle “please don’t ask me the night before” look on your face.
  22. Take a nap if you can, if not there’s always more coffee until it’s five o’clock, or time to go.

*=I don’t remember which magazine it was, but I can narrow it down to about 3 it was most likely to appear in: Christmas cookies, a BHG special interest publication; Taste of Home Christmas cookies (full size magazine, not the quarter size magazine, with tear-out card pages sold at checkouts near the breathmints); Cuisine magazine Christmas cookies.  If I do find it again I will update this post. Most of these magazines are re-issued every year with a new cover, and slightly changed recipes.

CAVEATS: Obviously, if you are providing snacks to children who may have nut allergies, peanut butter, almond butter, marzipan, almond paste, nutella are all out of the question for ingredients. Also don’t use German chocolate cake frosting as it has nuts in it.

Come to think of it, nut allergic children probably can’t eat mass-produced cookies. Machines that make cookies are also machines that crush nuts, or share a factory space with nut-crushing machines.

‘Later, Tater: Alternatives to White Potatoes and Other Starches

The American dinner. If it’s from Mom, Nana, or your local sit-down restaurant, it’s just unthinkable to have a main course without side dishes. That would be like a rock band with no drums and bass.

And the sides you most often see on an American plate? Potatoes, corn, rice, beans, pasta, maybe steamed vegetables.

If you’re cutting back, though, most likely starches are out of the question–no potatoes, no rice, no pasta, no corn; this makes eating out a little more choosy and thought-provoking experience.

Don’t be surprised if by cutting back on white or starchy foods, though, that the pounds start easing right off.

What can you eat in place of those starches at home?

Here are some things I’ve learned from Paleo cookbooks:

Root vegetables, sweet potatoes, and squashes are excellent ‘tater replacements’ Any of these can be diced, boiled or roasted, pureed, and who would know it wasn’t mashed potatoes until they tasted it?

  • Butter and unique spice blends of your choice can make all the difference in an otherwise mushy, bland, or earthy taste.
  • A little white or blush wine near the end of the cooking process can accent the flavor nicely without altering the color of food.
  • If you are not vegetarian, adding a meat broth to the cooking process can help flavor as well. If you are a vegetarian, there is always vegetarian vegetable soup, V8, or salsa to help with flavor.
  • For tropical flair, use coconut oil, non-sugary dried flakes, or coconut milk in the cooking process. **if you experience palpitations after eating coconut, don’t use it. I’m no doctor, but that’s not a good sign.**

To substitute for rice, take a head of cauliflower, break off each node, and break it up into chunks into a food processor. When the head is broken down, run the processor until you have a watery white powder. This is your rice. It has the slight sour taste of raw cauliflower, so squirting in some citrus, some wine and herbs can help conceal that flavor. Or pour the cauliflower rice into a bowl and use some sauce from the rest of the prepared meal and let it soak in for a few minutes, pour it on top and let it soak in for a few minutes.

To substitute for spaghetti, microwave a spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise, in about 1″ water on a microwave safe plate or bowl with a 1 TB. of water for 10 minutes. When it is done take it out and let it cool a little because the rind and interior are scalding hot. Flip each side over, use a fork to gently pull all the threads out onto another plate. Voila, noodles. If you wish to season them in a marinade, or saute them for a few minutes in a herb sauce, that is doable. They will have a slightly sweet taste to them that ordinary egg noodles do not have.

When eating out, always ask for alternatives. While I haven’t located mashed turnips or spaghetti squash risotto just yet, I have seen menus offering baked sweet potatoes, steamed seasonal vegetables, steamed asparagus, and the good old substitute garden/caesar salad for an extra dollar or two.