Take 2 was so so so much more aesthetically pleasing. Definitely more hat than poop-swirl this time!

When I first saw the Witches’ Hats in Thomas Keller’s new Bouchon Bakery cookbook, I thought them really cute. Then I took in the recipe and its subcomponents in their entirety (four pages – not including photos) and I gave a momentary pause to consider exactly what I was getting myself into. But cookie + marshmallow + chocolate makes me think of s’mores (love) and halloween was fast approaching, so I forged ahead.

This multi-part recipe involves making a speculoos cookie base, piping marshmallow cones on top, enrobing it in chocolate, then adding some simple decorative bits. While not necessarily difficult, it isn’t a quick recipe and requires some planning. I broke everything up into manageable bits and by spreading the making over four days, things never got overwhelming. Day 1 was the mixing of the speculoos dough only. I opted to leave it overnight in the fridge to let it firm up. Day 2 was the baking of the speculoos. Day 3 was making the marshmallow and assembling the hats. Day 4 was for decoration. You could definitely compress things, but you’d definitely need a full day for this one.

By the time I’d completed the process, my tastebuds were all burnt out from a night of working with the chocolate. So my first taste the next morning was, depressingly, only so-so. 12 hours and a lot of savoury eats later, my second sample made me revise my opinion. I really liked the slightly salty speculoo base, the soft pillowy marshmallow, and the the crisp snap of chocolate. They all went together very well. Like a Viva Puff (minus the jam filling and oh, hydrogenated modified palm kernel oil, and my favourite: artificial flavouring), but sadly, not like a s’more. It was missing the taste of toasty/burnt sugar that I associate strongly with the fireside treat.

Clearly this is a pretty involved recipe and the results while tasty, may not be worth all that effort unless you’re really trying impress are totally worth it. I had so many positive reactions – even for the uglier 1st batch! However, making these shaped like hats isn’t necessary, and I experimented with just simple squares which were also perfectly fine and no less pleasing on the palate.

I liked the results enough to bother making a second go at this recipe and have an opportunity to try and redeem myself on the aesthetics (success!). Future flavour tweaks include an attempt to torch the marshmallow before enrobing to incorporate that burnt taste so I have more of a s’more than a viva puff.

Think you’d want to have a go? The recipe below is excerpted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan Books) with permission from the publisher. Copyright © 2012. My annotations are in blue. Let me know how it went for you!

Oh hey! Thomas Keller will be in Toronto this Tuesday, October 30th to promote Bouchon Bakery and do a Q&A at Isabel Bader Theatre. More details and ticket information at The Cookbook Store.

Witches’ Hats

Pâtisserie is noted for precision and exactitude, but it’s also a craft that lends itself to whimsy and fun, one that can connect us immediately to the delights and wonders of childhood. These witches’ hats are a perfect example. They combine some of my favorite things: cookies, marshmallows, and chocolate. It’s hard to go wrong with that.

We make witches’ hats in 3 sizes: 1½, 2, and 2½ inches in diameter. For the best proportions of cookie to marshmallow, we never make them bigger than 3 inches. Makes twenty-four 1½-inch, sixteen 2-inch, or fourteen 2½-inch cookies.

*Note on Pate a glacer: Pâte à glacer sometimes referred to as compound chocolate, is used for coating. It can be used on fruits or on ice cream bars or cones, or to decorate cookies or desserts. Pâte à glacer is available in 3 different flavors – brune (dark), blonde (milk), and ivoire (white)—and it doesn’t require tempering.

Notes: We use Cacao Barry pâte à glacer. You’ll need a 1½-, 2-, or 2½-inch round cutter and a pastry bag with a ½-inch plain tip. I used a plastic bag with the tip cut off instead of the pastry bag.

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Line a sheet pan with a Silpat or parchment paper.

Roll out the speculoos dough as directed (see page 48). Cut the dough into rounds, arrange on the prepared sheet pan, leaving about I inch between them, and bake as directed, 12 to 14 minutes, depending on the size of the rounds. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. (The cookies can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days.)

Pipe a cone of marshmallow in the centre of the cookie. Leave about 1/2″ for the hat’s brim. I failed at reading the first time around.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the cooled cookies on another cooling rack, leaving at least 1 inch between them. Transfer the marshmallow to the pastry bag. Holding the bag vertically about ¼ inch above the center of a cookie, pipe the marshmallow so it covers the cookie to within ½ an inch from the edges, then pull up on the pastry bag to form a cone.

I thought I had to cover the cookie with a thin layer of marshmallow and then pipe the cone. This is a classic case of me not reading carefully. The cookie is the brim! Otherwise, you’ll get ugly cookies like this. You will use about 5 grams for small cookies, 10 grams for medium ones, and 15 grams for large ones. Repeat with the remaining cookies and marshmallow. (Depending on the size of the hats, you may have extra marshmallow.)

It’s like I was an elf in Mr. Hanky’s millinery.

Spoon some of the pâte à glacer or tempered chocolate over each hat to coat the marshmallow and cookie evenly. Let stand at room temperature until the chocolate sets. Tempering and coating was the most time-consuming part of the recipe. I was also really glad that I had taken that lesson in tempering chocolate (link).

Careful measuring will help your hats look neat and tidy. For the yellow buckle, I created my own “cutters” out of stiff paper, reinforced with tape. You may need to make new ones periodically as they wear down and the cuts become less sharp.

The witches’ hats are best served the day they are made.

Excerpted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan Books) with permission from the publisher. Copyright © 2012.