My wife's been after me to bake something for one of her office gatherings. I generally resist such requests. My thinking goes like this: We spent too much money on culinary school for me to flex my baking muscle for a bunch of Realtors who wouldn't cut their commissions for cookies.
Last night I relented. That's because 1 pound and 2 ounces of Scharffen Berger chocolate arrived in the Swag Heap mailbox -- and I really wanted to know how chocolate containing 99 percent cacao tastes and behaves.
Chocolate is measured in percentages that indicate the amount of cocoa butter and cocoa solids derived from cacao beans. The remaining percentage is sugar and a small amount of vanilla and soy lecithin, a stabilizer.
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So chocolate that's 99 percent cacao is almost pure chocolate.
Scharffen Berger's press release notes that its dark, unsweetened chocolate may contain traces of sugar and non-GMO soy lecithin as it's made on the same equipment as the company's sweetened products. Typical supermarket baking chocolate contains about 60 percent cacao. An expensive candy bar will contain 70 percent or more.
Eaten on its own, chocolate that's 99 percent cacao tastes about as bitter as week-old Guinness run through a '62 Volvo radiator. But baked into cookies, the chocolate's bright fruit flavors finished long and smooth, balanced by tannins and acid. It handled like a dream: Combined with butter in a double boiler, the chocolate melted into a glossy, silken puddle. Folded into cookie batter containing a small amount of flour, the chocolate bound the batter. The cookies resembled brownies in every way.
The chocolate arrived in the Swag Heap because Scharffen Berger has repackaged a trio of its products as 6-ounce "Home Baking Bars" (priced $5.99-6.99). The line includes 62 percent semisweet and 70 percent bittersweet. While the Berkeley, Calif., chocolatier (now a wholly owned subsidiary of Hershey) usually caters to fancy markets and restaurants, its "Home Baking Bars" will hit "mass retailers and grocers nationwide in November."
Below is the recipe for Double Chocolate Cookies, from Scharffen Berger co-founder Robert Steinberg. But first, full-disclosures: I once applied for a pastry cook job at Scharffen Berger. I didn't get it. No hard feelings. I also worked for the guy who built Scharffen Berger's cafe. Loved that carrot-ginger soup.
Double Chocolate Cookies
(makes about 2 dozen cookies)
6 ounces Scharffen Berger 99 percent cacao unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt