I’ve long loved the Mast Brothers Chocolate cookbook. It’s lovely to look at and full of amusing, literary anecdotes. The photos are dark and mysterious, the preparation guidelines have an insider’s vagueness, the cover is a glorious matte paper that evokes the 1940s.
In other words, these are speakeasy recipes. Best enjoyed with a bourbon-based artisanal cocktail in a booklined room, seated on a burnished leather Chesterfield that someone found in an alley. This is hipster baking. And I mean that in the very best way.
And, as I am with most things hipster, I’ve been slightly intimidated by the Masts. But I stepped up, making two recipes: Chocolate, Maple & Pecan Cookies and a variation on their Peanut Nib Brittle. (The brittle makes up for the non-cookbook Panforte from yesterday.)
Both are terrific. The maple sugar in the cookies is inspired. But both are true to their Brooklyn roots: These are treelight and firelight sweets, late night on Christmas Eve. Don’t forget the iced bourbon.
(By the way, the lovely plate is by Josie Jurczenia Clay, Berkeley, CA.)
Chocolate, Maple & Pecan Cookies
Adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate, yield about 24 cookies
½ c pecans
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¾ c maple sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¼ c flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
10 oz dark chocolate chips (I use Guittard semisweet)
Preheat oven to 350.
Toast pecans on a silpat-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes. Cool and coarsely chop.
Cream butter and maple sugar in a medium bowl until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Add to the butter/sugar mixture in two additions, beating until combined after each.
Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
Use a #40 ice cream scoop to form balls, placed two-inches apart on baking sheets. (I lined with parchment.)
Bake for 15 minutes. Cool one minute on baking sheet before moving to racks to cool completely.
Notes: These exceptionally delicious cookies came out flat, despite the baking powder and the chilling. I live in Los Angeles where maple sugar is a costly ingredient. I used the entire 8.8oz, $12 package from Whole Foods for these. I have since ordered a 48 oz tub of maple sugar from Amazon.
Almond Nib Brittle
Adapted from Mast Brothers Chocolate, yields 2 lbs.
The original recipe calls for peanuts. I don’t care for peanuts so I made this with an equal measure of toasted almonds.
2c granulated white sugar
½ c water
½ c honey
½ c cacao nibs (I use Valhrona)
½ c toasted and coarsely chopped almonds
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
Arrange a silpat or waxed paper lined, rimmed baking sheet near the stove, along with the nuts and nibs, baking soda, and butter.
Combine sugar, water, and honey in a 1.5 quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer and without stirring, cook until golden brown. (I get nervous around boiling sugar and color instructions. I clipped on a candy thermometer and let it go to 300F.)
Remove from heat and quickly add the butter, baking soda, nuts and nibs. Stir until the butter is melted. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
When cool, break into pieces.
Notes: This is fantastic.The honey notes come through strong in this brittle so be sure to use a great honey whose flavor you enjoy straight from the jar.