High Altitude Baking: Triple chocolate drops (recipe)
Editor’s note: High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Do you love chocolate truffles? Then this cookie’s for you. A mouth-watering combination of unsweetened chocolate, cocoa and chocolate chips is rolled into a ball and baked only until the outside is set. The inside remains soft and velvety, just like that truffle you can’t resist. The cookie disappears in two rich bites, leaving you with a memory of intense chocolate and a beatific smile.
Too much time in the oven takes away all the glories of this little sweetie. So, the minute the tops of the cookies are set and slightly puffed, get them out of the heat. And measure your ingredients carefully. At our altitude, extra baking powder will flatten and dry the cookie and any changes in the amount of flour can ruin the outcome.
Store the cookie at cool room temperature for two days or refrigerate for four. Serve warm for the most truffle-like experience or at room temperature. Re-heat them with a quick burst (10 seconds or so) of high heat in a microwave oven.
Triple chocolate drops
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(Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and higher. Makes 20 to 22 cookies.)
1 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
Scant ¼ cup bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
Scant 1 tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa
A pinch baking powder (about 1/16 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/3 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 large egg
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
½ teaspoon canola oil
Chop the unsweetened chocolate, and place it in a microwave-safe bowl with the butter and 1⁄3 cup chocolate chips. Place in microwave, and melt at a low temperature until only small lumps of chocolate are visible. Remove from the oven, and stir until smooth and fully combined. Set aside until the mixture reaches room temperature.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt until blended, and set aside. Using an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the sugar, egg and vanilla in a larger bowl until slightly thickened, pale in color and somewhat frothy (this takes about 2 minutes with my hand-held mixer). Add the room-temperature chocolate-butter mixture, and using low speed on your mixer or by hand, stir until blended. Add the dry ingredients, and stir gently until combined. Stir in the last 1⁄3 cup chocolate chips until evenly distributed in the dough.
Cover well, and chill in the freezer or refrigerator until quite firm. (This takes about 20 to 30 minutes in the freezer and approximately 2 hours in the refrigerator.) While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position.
Line a cookie sheet with nonstick aluminum foil (nonstick side up), a silicone baking liner or parchment paper. Don’t grease the pan or the cookies may spread. Remove the firm dough from the refrigerator or freezer, and roll it into balls about 1 inch in diameter.
Place the balls about an inch and a half apart on the prepared pan. If it requires two pans to hold them all, then bake them in batches. Bake only until the balls spread slightly to a mound, the tops are just set (they’ll lose some shine), the cookie puffs a little and is still very soft (8 to 10 minutes in my oven). Do not overbake! Remove from the oven, cool slightly, and serve, or if glazing, cool completely on a rack.
Make the glaze, if using: Chop the chocolate, and melt it at a low temperature in the microwave until only small lumps are visible. Remove, add the canola oil, and stir until smooth. Let the mixture cool slightly until it reaches a consistency that will drizzle well, and then top each cookie with a small amount.
This recipe was inspired by one in Gourmet Magazine. Vera Dawson is a baking instructor and author of two high-altitude cookbooks, “Cookies in the Clouds” and “Baking Above It All” (available at The Bookworm of Edwards). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.