Thursday, May 5, 2011

Filled Fudge Cookies Revisited

I originally published this recipe in December 2010, and recently cooked them again, with a friend. Just for experience, she made them at her house before our baking session, and found that she had some difficulties with the dough.  I could tell immediately that she had overcooked the cookies, but when she described how dry her dough was, I knew that there was probably another problem.  We made them again, using the ingredients she had brought and found that the dough was way too dry.  The culprit seemed to be the flour.  The recipe called for unbleached flour, and that is what she had brought, but it was Gold Metal - Better For Bread, unbleached, and this flour has too much protein in it  for the dough to work (we know this because we made them again with Pillsbury unbleached and it worked fine).  I have changed the recipe to reflect this - it now calls for all-purpose flour - either unbleached or bleached will work fine, and will be less confusing to those who can only find unbleached bread flour.  The other issue was with the 1/2 can of condensed milk.  I, of course, did this by weight, using 7 ounces of the condensed milk - which actually turns out to be more than half of the can - even though the can says that it is 14 ounces.  The recipe now has a more precise measurement for this.  Lastly, we wanted the cookies to look more elegant so we drizzled them with dark and white chocolate.  I don't have a picture of the result, but they really looked wonderful.

This recipe is based upon a 1995 $50,000 Pillsbury Bake-off winner called Fudgy Bonbons.  It was a really good  confection, but not a great one, because the dough was kind of greasy and the filling bland.  The original recipe called for using chocolate chips, which got melted together with some butter and then mixed together with condensed milk and flour.  Because there was not a very large amount of butter, every time I made the cookies, the chocolate mixture seized - that is, it got stiff and grainy very quickly.  The quick fix to this was to melt the chocolate and butter separately, and then to combine the chocolate with the very large quantity of condensed milk, which worked beautifully (as long as the milk is at room temperature!).  I also thought that the dough would be smoother  and less greasy with less butter in it.  In addition to these problems, the original recipe called for using milk chocolate kisses in the center.  So here you had a rather sweet wrapping around a mediocre piece of chocolate candy, rather than having a contrast between the two and a superb chocolate candy center.  The last problem with the bon bons was that, although they tasted good the first day, after that the candy center hardened and then it was more like eating a wrapped candy, rather than a cookie.  All of these objections were easy to fix as you'll see in the following recipe.  In my opinion, I've turned a $50,000 bonbon into a $100,000 cookie!  Love to have your opinions!

Filled Fudge Cookies
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped ( I used Ghirardelli)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
7 ounces (2/3cup) sweetened condensed milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour, measured by fluffing, scooping and levelling

30 Dove Promise candies, Caramel or Peanut Butter (or solid)

2 ounces semisweet chocolate, for decorating
2 ounces white chocolate, optional (to get it to melt thinly, you need  white chocolate with more than 31% cocoa butter (more than 15g/40g chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with a rack in the center of the oven.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Place the chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl, and heat it on medium power (5) for 1-1/2 minutes.  If the chocolate isn't yet melting, heat it for another 30 seconds.  Stir, and see if the mixture needs more heating or if it can rest and continue melting on its own.  Continue, heating, stirring and resting until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Set aside to cool briefly.

Meanwhile, place the butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat it on 10 seconds to melt the butter.  Stir the condensed milk and vanilla into the chocolate and  then stir in the melted butter.

Add the flour and stir, and then knead the dough until all of the flour has been incorporated.

Keep the dough covered as you are making the cookies, and if it starts to crack a lot as you are making the cookies, drizzle  and knead in a little more condensed milk.

To make the cookies, pull off a small ball of dough, and flatten it in the palm of your hand or on a board until it is a scant 1/8-inch thick.  There are a few different shapes that you can make, and I use them to differentiate cookies that have different fillings.  This time, I used round shapes for cookies filled with solid chocolate ( I didn't like those for the reasons mentioned above), square shapes for the caramel filled cookies and triangles for the peanut butter filled cookies. 

For round or square shapes, set the Dove Promise square in the center of the dough you have just flattened, and then bring the sides up over the dough to encase the chocolate.

Once the dough is encased, you can squeeze and pat it in our hand and use your thumb and forefinger to shape the round.

For square shapes, tamp the cookie on its ends.

For triangles, I like to cut the Dove Promises in half.  If using the caramel filled ones, they will need to be frozen first.  I usually start with the same piece of dough as in the above examples, but I square it up on the work board and then turn it so that the pointed side is up.  I put the piece of candy in, wrap the top edges around the candy, estimate the amount of dough needed to finish the wrap, and then cut off the excess dough at the bottom. (When I try to cut it into the triangle shape first, I always seem to end up with too little dough, but you can do it anyway that gets the job done). 

The last thing to do is to seal the final edge, and I usually do that with a decorative rim.

Set the cookies on the prepared cookie sheet and bake them for 4-6 minutes.  DO NOT OVERBAKE. Cookies will be soft and appear shiny, but the bottoms will just be showing signs of being cooked and will look like barely-cooked brownies. Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and let the cookies cool.  

The cookies aren't that attractive without some sort of decoration, and cookies that don't look great won't be perceived as great, even if they are! I usually just melt the 2 ounces of semisweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for about 1 minute on power 5 or until melted.  I then make a little cone out of a plastic bag, snip off the tip and pipe some horizontal lines on the top to cover up the cookie blemishes. You can repeat the process with the white chocolate.
How long to let the cookies cool is definitely a matter of preference. After about 2 hours, the cookies will be cool, but the centers will still be totally liquid .  I prefer them after about 6 hours when the chocolate has firmed up a bit, but isn't yet hard.  By the next day, the centers will have firmed back to their original state.  You can put them back onto a cookie sheet and set them in a 100 or 200 degree oven for a minute or two to re-soften the centers slightly.

The cookies do freeze, although they are always much better when freshly made. Set the frozen cookies in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes to defrost the dough and soften the centers.

Makes about 30 cookies