I have known some great cooks in my lifetime. Some of them can do wonderful things with the Sacred Substance. I want to do a series of interviews with these folks so you, Sisters and Brothers, can see how you might be able to incorporate chocolate into your baking and cooking. Today I want to introduce one amazing woman who holds a PhD, teaches, researches and makes the time to do a lot of wonderful cooking. Being invited to her house for any occasion is certain to involve the consumption of something delightful.
How long have you been cooking and baking?
Since I was 10 years old. My mom broke her ankle, and I had to take over some of the cooking. I started out just making scrambled eggs for dinner, and then I got a great cookbook called Vegetarian Pleasures, and I started cooking and baking my way through it. That’s how I made my first cake, a blueberry streusel cake baked in a glass casserole dish. I still have the scar on my hand that I got when I took it out of the oven.
How did you learn to be as skilled and creative in the kitchen as I know you to be?
Thanks, Chocolate Priestess! I think a lot of my creativity in baking comes from grad school, when I was partly supporting myself by cooking at a bed-and-breakfast. I would come to work at 4 or 5 in the morning and bake a huge variety of cakes, scones, muffins, and breads to serve the guests that morning.
How long have you been working with chocolate and cocoa products in the kitchen?
I think that most of us started baking by making chocolate chip cookies, and I probably started making them when I was around 10. They are the only kind of cookies that my father likes.
Given all the mass media concerns about weight and other health issues, it isn’t too surprising that chocolate is often in the middle of the debates, cited as an ingredient to avoid to or use . Have any health concerns affected how you use chocolate in your own kitchen? Why or why not? If so, how has it affected things?
Because of health reasons, my mother can’t eat chocolate. So when I make baked goods for my parents or at family events, I try not to use chocolate. That’s really the only way health concerns have affected my use of chocolate. They certainly haven’t prevented me from eating lots of chocolate myself, although I try to do it in moderation.
Are there any particular challenges you’ve encountered when using chocolate or cocoa?
The main problem I’ve had is the messiness. I especially like to dip things in chocolate, and chocolate ends up getting all over the kitchen and my clothes. Also, a particular challenge of chocolate is that it doesn’t come out of your clothes.
How do you overcome those challenges?
I cover everything in wax paper before I start. That helps a little.
Have you ever had a failure with chocolate?
My worst chocolate failure was last Christmas when I tried to make chocolate cookies and chocolate meringues. The cookies ran together in the pan and formed one giant globbular cookie. And the meringues sort of shrank in the oven and got flat. They looked completely unappetizing.
What is your greatest success with using chocolate?
Would you be willing to share that recipe with our Followers?
Here is how I made the mille-feuilles. I made pastry cream from this recipe:
Then I thawed sheets of frozen puff pastry, cut them into small squares, and baked them according to the instructions on the box. Once they bake and puff up, you can see three separate layers in each square. I let them cool, then separated the layers in each square with a sharp knife. Then I assembled each mille-feuille with a small spoonful of pastry cream between each layer. I melted dark chocolate in the microwave. You can do this without ruining the chocolate if you heat it for 20 seconds, then stir, then repeat the process several times until all the chocolate is melted. Then I drizzled the chocolate over the tops of the mille-feuilles with a spoon.
If you wanted to make this more chocolatey, you could add some cocoa to the pastry cream.
Finally, do you have a favorite cookbook of chocolate recipes, or do you prefer family recipes?
I really like The Joy of Chocolate, by Judith Olney, and Rose’s Christmas Cookies, by Rose Levy Berenbaum.
Thank you so much for speaking with The Chocolate Cult today.
Thanks for having me on your blog!