Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Just like “muffin” is basically another word for cake, granola doesn’t have to be strictly “health food.” In fact, some granolas are so sweet they could easily qualify as candy. But since I tend to spend the better part of the day roaming around my apartment, sticking my hand in various boxes and jars of stuff to eat (some that qualify as health food, while other things that don’t quite fit that definition), I wanted to come up with a granola (called muesli, in French) that I didn’t feel so guilty about dipping my hand into throughout the day.
Results tagged chocolate chips from David Lebovitz
Even though globalization has made things pretty available everywhere, and things like Speculoos spread and Fleur de sel can now be found in America, it hasn’t always worked quite the same the other way around. Some American things haven’t made it across the Atlantic and people often think that Americans subsist on junk food because at the stores that cater to expats, and in the “American aisle” at the supermarket, there are things like Strawberry Fluff (which I keep explaining to them that that’s something I’ve never seen in America), boxed macaroni & cheese, caramel-flavored microwave popcorn, bottled salad dressings, and powdered cheesecake mix, which I think I find scarier than they do.
And while there’s nothing wrong with a pour of ranch dressing or a Fluffernutter every now and then (although hold the strawberry-flavor..), those are not exactly the best that America has to offer. I often get asked by folks in the states what kind of things people from America they should bring to their French friends or hosts. And while it’s tempting to bring them something amusing like chocolate cake mix or boxed macaroni and cheese, they don’t see the same humor mixed with nostalgia in them that we do. (And yup, they have boxed cake mixes here too, so they’re not novel.) Peanut butter is also dicey; while we in America devour it, many French folks have an aversion to the flavor of it. Space is also at a premium so while it’s fun to think how delighted they would be to get a 2-gallon drum of “French” salad dressing or red licorice whips from the warehouse store, you’re probably better off devoting that luggage space to something that they’ll actually use and eat.
I think the highlight of my Christmas dinner this year was when I entered the family kitchen, where I arrive bearing the dessert, and promptly dropped the the whole thing on the floor, where it shattered into a million pieces. I sighed, and guessed it was a fitting end to a fragmented year. Having seen more than my share of kitchen catastrophes in my time in various professional kitchens, like getting yourself stuck in a traffic jam, there’s not much you can do once the damage has been done and I’m glad that I’m able to laugh them off.
This year, one of my catastrophic ideas was to tackle granola bars. I see recipes out there all the time—usually some sort of combination of oats, dried fruits, sometimes nuts, and invariably lots of sweeteners to hold everything together. I wanted to make a bar that was really grainy and nutty, without being overly chewy or sugary, but not one of my experiments turned out as I expected. And what I was left with after each of my attempts was a cutting board with some combination of oaty crumbs, miscellaneous dried fruits, dried out seeds of some sort, and a wounded ego.
Because the question comes up from time to time, I thought I’d answer some questions about making substitutions in my recipes, and swapping out or deleting ingredients.
The short answer is: Ingredients are added to recipes for a specific purpose and there is a reason that they are there. When you substitute or swap out ingredients, results will vary and won’t be the same as mine.
Some may work, and others won’t. And I can’t comment on results unless I’ve tried it myself. The most common request is folks who want to reduce the sugar or fat in a recipe, but in most instances, people are not happy with the final results. So unless you have health issues such as allergies and intolerances, it’s best to stick with the recipe.
One recent change that’s occurred in home baking is the proliferation of “premium” products, such as “European-style” butter, stronger flour (with more protein and gluten), high percentage chocolate, and instant yeast. Using products such as these can alter results and it’s simply not possible to write a recipe that includes variations for each kind of product that might be available in the diverse geographical regions of the world. So it’s up to you to use your best judgement and alter a recipe as necessary, to compensate for the variation in products. (You may wish to consult the manufacturer directly to get further directions on using their product.)
Realizing that people have various dislikes and dietary needs, here are some guidelines you might find useful when using my recipes on the site or in my Books. If you’re looking for more comprehensive information about baking ingredient substitutions, I’ve provided links at the end where you can find answers. Do remember that these are general guidelines and are not applicable to each and every recipe that exists. Home bakers are encouraged to experiment—especially those on restricted or special diets, because they’re often best educated on how to modify recipes to meet their particular dietary needs.
Spices are interchangeable in recipes. When I come up with spice amounts, they are to my personal taste and that which I think others will like. Reducing 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to 1 teaspoon won’t alter the way a cake or cookie turns out, but it won’t have the same oomph as the ones I did. However not everyone likes, say, cloves or other spices. So if you see a spice in a recipe you don’t like, you can omit it and perhaps dial up one of the other spices or flavors to compensate.
Gluten and Flours
In recipes that call for flour, I mean all-purpose flour. If I mean cake or bread flour, that will be noted. I’m not an expert on gluten-free baking and there are others who are so can’t advise about substitutions with specialty flours. King Arthur carries a gluten-free baking flour that they advise is a good swap for wheat flour. I haven’t used it so can’t confirm, but people who bake gluten-free likely have their own techniques for substituting wheat flour if you don’t wish to use a gluten-free flour mix, such as:
I’m happy to be taking care of two things with this recipe. One is that about a week ago, I was late to the market, arriving near the end, when everyone was packing up to leave. Scanning quickly to see what I could procure in a short amount of time, I passed by a stand where one fellow lorded over an enormous pile of organic bananas, and was hollering, “Un euro, deux kilos!…Un euro—deux kilos!”
Since that’s roughly a buck for a little over four pounds of fruit, I stopped right there, and took as many as I could carry off his hands. And then, he threw another bunch in my basket after I paid. So I had a whole bunch of bananas…five, to be precise…which was great. But I was a little concerned about having what looked to be like around fifty bananas for just one person.
Once home, as they started ripening during the week, seemingly all at once, a mild panic set in. So I called into service a recipe from my archives, one of my all-time favorites: Banana and Chocolate Chip Upside-Down Cake.
When I was speaking at the Blogher Food Conference last year, one of the organizers was telling us that on the last day of each month, she carries out what she calls E-mail Amnesty Day. On that day, she deletes all her e-mail in her Inbox, then issues an all-points-bulletin to everyone she knows that if there was anything important in there, to e-mail her again. She swore that it drastically reduced her e-mail and any meltdowns one might have trying to answer it all.
I thought that was an interesting idea, and when I looked around my apartment the other day, (which wasn’t half as scary as my Inbox), I realized that I had a huge miscellany of half-bags and jars of stuff left over from various baking projects, odds and ends that I was saving, which I said to myself (at the time) that I’d certainly use in the future. And this weekend, I thought it was high time to do something about it and get rid of them all, to do an exhaustive, clean sweep and get rid of everything.
My chocolate has gray streaks. It is okay to use?
That’s called bloom and it happens when the chocolate melts or gets warm, and then cools again without being tempered. When you buy chocolate, it is already tempered. However if it’s exposed to heat or melted, it can fall out of temper and lose its emulsification. (You can read my instructions for how to temper chocolate.)
Those streaks that you see are harmless swirls of cocoa fat rising to the surface because when the chocolate was warmed, it lost its emulsion (like chicken stock or vinaigrette, which separates when heated, then cooled). Similarly, if there are crystal-like formations on the surface, those indicate ‘sugar bloom’ and the chocolate is safe to use. In either case, the chocolate can be melted and used as normal. If there is green mold, or anything furry, that means the chocolate got damp. In that case, it should be tossed.
How long does chocolate last?
Contrary to what you may hear, dark chocolate lasts around five years. That’s in part due to the high amount of antioxidants, as well as the sugar, which is a preservative. Milk chocolate and white chocolate contain milk solids and should be used within a year.
What’s the difference between bittersweet and semisweet chocolate?
Technically nothing. Both chocolates must contain a minimum of 35% cacao solids in the US. Some manufacturers that make both will often call their sweeter chocolate “semisweet”, although it’s totally arbitrary and they can be used interchangeably in recipes.
What’s the difference between bitter and bittersweet chocolate?
Bitter chocolate contains no sugar, and is often called “unsweetened” or “baking” chocolate. In some countries it’s called 100% cacao since it’s composed only of ground up cocoa bean mass. Because bitter chocolate has no sugar and no added fat (cocoa beans are about half fat), it is more stubborn to melt and may be slightly grainy in custard and ice cream recipes. Often that can be mitigated by whirling the mixture in an electric mixer before cooking or churning it.
There is so substitution of bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate for the other, although if you don’t have unsweetened chocolate, you can replicate it by mixing 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or melted butter to equal 1 ounce of unsweetened (bitter) chocolate. Mix them together as a paste and you can use that for unsweetened chocolate in recipes.
Why does chocolate and liquid melted together sometimes become grainy?
Chocolate is an emulsion, which means when you add something to it, and heat it, you break that emulsion. When melting chocolate, make sure you have at least 1 part liquid to 4 parts chocolate. So if you have 1 ounce of water and melt it with 8 ounces of chocolate, that won’t work and you’ll end up with a seized, grainy mass. You need at least 2 ounces of liquid for 8 ounces of chocolate, or at least 1 part liquid to 4 parts chocolate by weight.
Pure oil, such as peppermint or essential oils, can be added to chocolate in any quantity since the oil doesn’t break the emulsion like water or other liquids do.
Can I Use Chocolate Chips for Melting in a Recipe?
Most commercial-brands of chocolate chips are made of baking resistant chocolate, fabricated with less cocoa butter than standard chocolate so they keep their shape when heated. (Think of classic chocolate chip cookies with clearly-discernible chips.) If you melt them, you’ll often end up with a sludgy, thick pool of chocolate rather than one that’s smooth.
Some recipes, however, may specifically call for melting chips and although I can’t vouch for every recipe out there, I advise people to follow the author’s advice. Also there are now many chocolate chips that are made from premium-quality chocolate, such as those from Ghiradelli, Guittard, and Scharffen Berger, which can be used for melting, as well as baking in cookies.
What is the best chocolate?
That is a tough question. Like anything edible, many things come into play. Do you like bitter chocolate? Or one that is sweeter? Do you prefer a roasted flavor? Or one that is softer, and creamier?
I tell people that the best chocolate is the one that tastes best to them. So I encourage folks to taste as many chocolates as they can, and choose one they like best.
What Country Makes the Best Chocolate?
Like the previous question, that’s very tough to say. Almost all cocoa beans are grown close to the equator, then shipped for processing, so there is nothing geographically advantageous if they’re processed in America, Belgium, France, or Switzerland. Most of the quality of the finished chocolate comes from the quality of the raw beans, their fermentation, then the roasting, grinding, and mixing at the factory.
I Should Only Bake with Top-Quality, Very Expensive Chocolate. Right?
When you melt chocolate and add it to a batter, such as for brownies or cookies, the finer points of an expensive chocolate may get lost. And while those fancy chocolates may be excellent for nibbling, I’m not sure if using an extremely pricey or rare chocolate is best of baking. I recommend sticking with a middle-range chocolate for baking.
Similarly, many of the new high-percentage chocolate, boasting cocoa contents of 70% and above are very acid and can cause creams and ganaches to break. So I recommend following the advice in the recipe, or using a dark chocolate in the 35-64% range, for best results.
I Can’t Get, or Can’t Afford, Good Chocolate. Any tips?
To boost the flavor of chocolate, you can add 1 teaspoon of instant coffee powder to the recipe. The roasted flavor helps improve and highlight the flavor of the chocolate.
I also like to use chocolate extract, and add a dash to recipes along with vanilla extract (or in place of) in recipes. Some of the ‘top notes’ of flavor are lost when cocoa beans are processed, and chocolate extract replaces many of them. It’s a secret used by some manufacturer’s, and one whiff from the bottle is enough to convince you that it’s a secret worth sharing.
Can I Use Drinking Cocoa or Ground in a Recipe That Calls for Cocoa Powder?
When a recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa powder, do not substitute anything else.
What’s the Difference Between Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder and Natural? And Can They Be Interchanged?
Dutch-process cocoa means that the beans have been acid-neutralized, which tames the flavor and makes the cocoa darker as well. Many recipes that call for baking powder call for Dutch-process cocoa. Recipes that use baking soda will often call for ‘natural’ (or non-alkalized) cocoa powder. One should not switch one for the other. If you’re unsure of whether your cocoa powder is natural or not, a look at the ingredients will reveal if there is potassium bromate or carbonate in it, an indication it’s been ‘Dutched’.
In Europe, virtually all the cocoa powder is Dutched, whereas in America, both kinds are widely available. Companies like Hershey’s, Nestlé, Ghiradelli, and Guittard make natural cocoa, and Askinosie, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, produces a ‘natural’ cocoa powder as well.
Paris and Chocolate-Related Posts
Dinner in Paris generally starts at 8 pm, especially in restaurants. And most places don’t even open to take reservations until 7 o’clock. I once was talking to a visitor who was really upset as he recounted arriving 15 minutes early at a place that he had reservations for dinner. The staff was sitting down having dinner (how civilized!) and asked him to come back at 8, when the restaurant opened and the time of his reservation. He told me he threw a fit, not believing that they wouldn’t seat him, and stormed off. (I think I will try that next time I arrive at the airport early and throw a fit when they refuse to take off until the scheduled departure time.)
Anyone who’s worked in a restaurant knows how precious those few minutes of sitting down and eating are. Those moments of peace-and-quiet with your co-workers are the last chance to get off your aching feet for a spell and have a bite to eat. Especially since the next chance to sit down or eat something is likely to be well past midnight.
Parisians do dine rather late, and sometimes it can be a painfully long stretch between lunch and dinner. So French people often visit their local pâtisserie for an afternoon snack, known as le goûter, although nowadays Parisians often call it ‘le snack’.
Le snack is often nothing more than a buttery financier or a tender Madeleine. At home, French children at home are often given a split piece of baguette with a bâton of chocolate tucked inside to keep them happy until dinner.
But my snack of choice is invariably les chouquettes: Cream puffs covered with crunchy nuggets of sugar, then baked until golden-brown. The eggy, pillowy puffs are piled uneventfully behind the counter and sold in crisp little paper sacks, each one holding about 100 grams, or about 10. I found that engaging the counter person in a few words of niceties will often mean that before the ends of the bag are twisted shut, a few more will be tossed in as a petit cadeau for l’americain.
Nothing is easier to make than chouquettes and you can bake them tonight with ingredients you likely already have on hand. Unfortunately I don’t know where in your country you can buy the very coarse, crackly sugar that they use in France. But you can substitute any large-grained sugar that you have. And since I like to add chocolate to whatever I can, whenever I can, I press some chocolate chips into a few of the puffs before baking.
The ones with chocolate chips, needless to say, are always the first consumed once the puffs are cool enough to handle.
About 25 Puffs
From The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway Books)
Shaping the mounds of dough is easiest to do with a pastry bag, although you can use two spoons or a spring-loaded ice cream scoop.
- 1 cup (250ml) water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- 1 cup (135g) flour
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
Glaze: 1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon milk
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (220 C.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. Heat the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a small saucepan, stirring, until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and dump all the flour in at once. Stir rapidly until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
3. Allow dough to cool for two minutes, then briskly beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth and shiny.
4. Using two spoons, scoop up a mound of dough with one spoon roughly the size of an unshelled walnut, and scrape it off with the other spoon onto the baking sheet.
5. Place the mounds evenly-spaced apart on the baking sheet. Brush the top of each mound with some of the egg glaze then press coarse sugar crystals over the top and sides of each mound. Use a lot. Once the puffs expand rise, you’ll appreciate the extra effort (and sugar.)
6. Bake the cream puffs for 35 minutes, or until puffed and well-browned.
(If you want to make them crispier, you can poke a hole in the side with a knife after you take them out of the oven to let the steam escape.)
The cream puffs are best eaten the same day they’re made. Once cooled, they can be frozen in a zip-top freezer bag for up to one month. Defrost at room temperature, then warm briefly on a baking sheet in a moderate oven, until crisp.