Brownie with Chubby Cherry Topping and Amaretto Whipped Cream
Why the Pro’s Bake Better
Baking is no better than the ingredients used.
Professional bakers don’t buy their ingredients from a grocery store. They get a far better selection and quality from a wholesaler. Instead of ordinary cocoa, they buy fine European cocoas with a much higher cocoa butter content. Instead of ordinary vanilla, they buy professional grade vanilla, most often Madagascar vanilla.
You can do the same. You can find better ingredients online. A grocery store operates on thin margins and cost is king. Online merchants have different constraints. In our case, most of our business is mixes. We buy the best ingredients we can get in bulk at wholesale prices. We repackage some of that as ingredients and sell at discounted prices.
Can the Right Cocoa Make that Much Difference?
We sell a lot of cocoa. Enough that everyone sends us samples to try. Most are average. Some are disappointing. Some are outstanding and a few are amazing.
What makes a cocoa amazing? Frankly, I don’t know. Processing methods are closely guarded secrets. Apparently, craftsmanship is critical.
I do know that the cocoa butter content makes a difference. I’ve never met a good cocoa that didn’t have a high cocoa butter content. So that’s the first thing to look for.
Manufacturers should list the cocoa butter content. Most in the stores are 8 to 10%. Pass on those. You should be able to find 16-18%. You might find some 22-24%.
These are ice cream cupcakes—chocolate cupcakes topped with a scoop of ice cream and then dipped in chocolate ganache. (Tip: After placing the ice cream on top of the cupcakes, place them in the freezer so that the ice cream freezes to the cupcakes, otherwise the ice cream may fall off when you dip the ice cream in your ganache.)
Somewhere along the line, these were called Grandpa Grumpy Cupcakes (I am not grumpy). You can get what you need here.
When we test cocoas, we do two things: We make hot cocoa and we make brownies. We test multiple cocoas at once. We have a 14-foot long island in our test kitchen. We line up the hot cocoas and the brownies and round up the volunteers. (That’s a tough job, sampling cocoas and brownies.)
We always test against our existing cocoas. If they are not at least as good as our existing cocoas, we’re not interested. Of all the cocoas that we have tested against our existing cocoas, Ramstadt Breda, there is only one that we’ve selected. It’s a Belcolade cocoa that we get from a company in Spain. It costs more but it is incredibly good.
These are my favorite peanut butter and chocolate cookies, certainly my favorite peanut butter sandwich cookies. But your kids will never let you buy store cookies again. You can see the recipe for these at the end of this article.
So how do you find your favorite cocoa? Start out with a high cocoa butter content and work from there.
It’s a matter of preference. Merri Ann, my sweet wife, likes dark rich, almost bitter chocolate. So she likes our Ramstadt Breda Rich Dark Cocoa. I like a mellower, smoother chocolate. In many applications, I prefer Ramstadt Breda Medium Dark. If I can snag it, I’ll grab the Belcolade Cocoa. It has the same cocoa butter content as the Ramstadt Dark but it is very smooth, and nuanced. (By that I mean that the first impression of the taste is a little different after it’s been in your mouth for a moment, you pick up subtle background tones.)
Find all three types of cocoa here:
Be willing to pay more. It’s worth it. Imported cocoas cost more. We’ve tried cocoa from South America and Africa. It’s hard to beat European cocoas. Our dark cocoa comes from Germany and our medium from Holland.
When you find an amazing cocoa, we would love to hear about it. Drop me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies with Ganache Filling
This is really a recipe for peanut butter yoyo cookies—thin peanut butter wafers sandwiched with a creamy chocolate filling. This recipe is bound to be a hit at your house. It’s one of our favorite recipes.
For the very best cookies, use a quality chocolate though good quality chocolate chips will make a fine cookie.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
- Cream the butter and sugars together with the paddle attachment of your mixer. Add the salt, egg, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the peanut butter and mix.
- Add the flour and baking soda and beat until combined.
- Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes to firm up slightly.
- Divide the dough into two portions. Using wax paper, roll each portion into logs 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Refrigerate for two hours or until firm
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut cookies into 3/8-inch slices. Place them on a greased baking sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes or until the cookies just start to brown on the edges. Cool on a wire rack.
For the filling:
Mix 1/4 cup whipping cream, one tablespoons butter, and 2 tablespoons of light corn syrup in a heavy saucepan. Heat until it simmers. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add six ounces of semisweet baking chocolate chopped into pieces. Stir until the chocolate is melted into a smooth sauce. The filling will thicken as it cools.
This can also be made with one cup of semisweet chocolate chips though the lack of cocoa butter in the chocolate chips will affect the flavor. If you use chocolate chips, increase the butter to two tablespoons.