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Archive for the ‘the sweet life’ Category

I mean, seriously…can you resist?  No, don’t resist.  You’ll be missing out!  These cookies are really intensely chocolatey.  They are slightly crisp on the outside and soft-chewy on the inside, with the coffee flavor coming through, especially at the end.  They are perfectly paired with a tall glass of milk and frankly, I dare you to just eat one.  And a little birdie told me that if you want to get really down and dirty, you’d smear a dollop of peanut butter over the top and eat them like an ooey-gooey open-faced sandwich!

Be sure to buy chocolate that you really love.  Stay away from the Hershey’s.  I use Guittard for most of my chocolate baking projects.  The chocolate is tasty, and it’s not too hard to find these days in well-stocked grocery stores.

Double chocolate and coffee cookies barely adapted from Rick Katz’ recipe in Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
yields about 24 cookies

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into larger-than-chip-sized chunks; divided in half
  • 4 ounces (one stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons very finely ground coffee or instant coffee powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium bowl mix the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine .

Separately, combine the butter with unsweetened chocolate and half of the bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl.  Set the bowl over a medium pan of simmering water (be sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl) and stir every-so-often with a rubber spatula until completely melted.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs, sugar, coffee, and vanilla.  Whisk on high speed for about 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes light-yellow in color, and leaves a ribbon on the surface when drizzled with a spoon.

Turn the mixer down to the lowest setting and add the melted chocolate.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and use a rubber spatula to be sure that all the nooks of the bowl have been evenly mixed.  Add the flour mixture and remaining chocolate chunks and mix only until just combined.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic, and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Place the oven racks in the center-most position and preheat the oven to 350º. Line 2 baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.  Drop the cookies by the heaping-Tablespoonful onto the trays, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.

Bake 10-12 minutes.  They are ready when they look slightly underdone in the center.  Immediately transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.

You will probably eat at least one when they are still warm.  I don’t blame you.  They are delicious!

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These became the best stale cookies I’ve ever eaten.

Wait.

Let me explain.

I made these cookies for the first time on July 28th.  That was a Wednesday.  Scott and I nibbled more than we should have for a day-and-a-half, and then…

I went into labor.

That was a Thursday.  (I’ll never forget it!)

And so the remaining uneaten cookies sat, lonesome-as-can-be, in the house until we got home on Saturday.

And let me tell you……..

There is nothing tastier than a stale homemade cookie when you’ve been eating hospital food for two days!

Oaty chocolate chip cookies barely adapted from Staff Meals from Chanterelle by David Waltuck and Melicia Phillips
yields about 32 cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Set an oven rack in the center-most position, and preheat the oven to 375º.  Prepare 3 baking sheets by lightly buttering them or lining them with silpats.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add both sugars and the butter.  Mix on low speed until combined, then mix on medium for about 60 seconds, until light and fluffy.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and sprinkle in the baking soda and salt.  Again, mix well on medium speed for about 15 seconds.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition.  Scrape down the bowl.

Add the flour, one cup at a time, mixing to thoroughly combine before adding the second cup of flour.  Scrape down the bowl.

Add the oats, one cup at a time, mixing to thoroughly combine before adding the second cup of oats.  Scrape down the bowl.

Dump in the chocolate chips all at once, and mix until they are fully incorporated.

Drop 2-Tablespoon sized balls onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each ball of dough.  Bake the cookies, one tray at a time, for 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies have started to turn golden on the edges and are still slightly soft in the center.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 3 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.

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In one week’s time, we’ll be moving into a much bigger place. Hallelujah!  And right now, I’m looking at our two empty book shelves.  They are normally filled with cookbooks.  Over 200 of them!  I love cookbooks.  Not so much for the recipes, but for the ideas and inspiration.  Of course when it comes to the sweet side of life, I stick mostly to recipes.  As I’ve gotten better, I’ve learned how to tweak the recipes for baked goods, but you can’t just go changing things willy-nilly.  Specific ratios are really important in baked goods.  For the most part it’s best not to tweak unless you understand the science behind it all…

But for the savory side, I just love to pour through cookbooks, imagining what I’d have for dinner every night if I had the time (and money) to cook whatever I wanted for dinner every night.

I had a realization the other day about the difference between cooking at home and cooking in the restaurant.  Although home cooking can be simple and easy, in a way, it takes more advanced planning.  For example, at the restaurant, we always have chicken stock on hand.  And yogurt. And celery. And a baguette, canned tomato,  green peppercorns, herbs, fennel, oranges, 2-dozen different shapes of pasta…the list goes on.  The thing is, we can keep all of that stocked because of the volume of business the restaurant does.  We can keep tons of perishable items on hand at all times.  At home, especially cooking for just the two of us, we could never keep such a variety on hand at all times.  We’d never move through it fast enough!  So I think you have to be creative when cooking at home.  Plan to make chicken stock a day ahead, and be sure to use it up before it goes bad.  Keep creating things until the little bits of leftovers are gone.  Use up that half-can of tomato paste, rather than just letting it go to waste.  It is essentially the same thing we do at the restaurant, just on a much smaller scale.

My favorite way to use up leftovers is to make clean-out-the-fridge-soup. It’s a good way to use up little odds and ends leftover from dinners past.  The best soups we’ve had at home will never be made again because they were comprised of little odds and ends that we’ll likely never have again in that specific combination.  A little o’ this, a little o’ that… Soup requires very little advanced planning and is always filling and satisfying.

Anyway, I started rambling because I was staring at these two empty bookshelves.  I already miss my cookbooks and they’ve only been packed for a few days!  Last week at work, a couple of the guys were talking about their favorite cookbooks and I thought that might be a fun thing to mention here.  Now, as I said before, I don’t often use my cookbooks for their specific recipes, but for the ideas.  A jumping-off point, if you will…

So here are a few of my favorites.

Lulu’s Provencal Table by Richard Olney

At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells

Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters

The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook

Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver

My Mexican Kitchen by Diana Kennedy

Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere

All About Braising by Molly Stevens

The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld

…and that’s just to name a few!

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Do you have any cookbooks that automatically open to the most-used page?  That page is, by now, splattered, creased, stained and yellowed.  I have a book like that.  It was one of my first cookbooks.  I think I got it in college.  The Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  They have since come out with a newer version, but this old one suits me just fine.  Over the years, I’ve used it nearly as often as The Joy of Cooking, both of which I keep in the “reference book” section of my cook-book shelf.  It’s a great resource for figuring out how to cook because they include lengthy explanations of their trials and errors in coming to the final recipe.  Honestly, I don’t often use it for savory recipes, but they do an awfully good job with the sweet stuff!

So anyway, this is my favorite pancake recipe.  I keep trying others, hoping to find something even more magnificent, but so far, nothing measures up.  I just love this one!  Plus, I can whip them up in the time it takes the griddle to heat, making a pancake breakfast,  easy Monday morning- fare.  (Monday is my week-end, mind you…)

My favorite pancakes (with blueberries, if you’d like!) barely adapted from The Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine
serves 2 hungry adults

I like to give my griddle a full 5 minutes to heat up over medium-low heat.  This ensures more even cooking once the batter is ready to go.   Also, I like to use a combination of oil and butter for frying the pancakes- the butter is tastier, and the oil helps to keep the butter from burning.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • butter and pure olive oil or vegetable oil for brushing griddle
  • about 1 cup blueberries (optional)

Place a griddle or large saute pan over medium-low heat to warm through as you measure the batter ingredients.  Heat the oven on the lowest setting, and place an oven-proof platter large enough to hold all the pancakes in the oven to keep warm.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, whisking to combine.

In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk the egg white until it forms stiff peaks (it really only takes a minute or two to do it by hand!)  Set aside.

Pour the buttermilk and milk into a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup or small bowl.  Stir the egg yolk into the cooled, melted butter, then whisk the yolk mixture into the buttermilk mixture.  Dump the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients all at once, and whisk until just combined.  (If using blueberries, stir them in now.)  Using a plastic spatula, gently fold the whipped egg white into the batter.

Pour a Tablespoon or so of oil into the pan and add about 1/2 Tablespoon of butter.  Spread the fat around so that it coats the pan.  Using a 1/4-cup measure, pour the batter into the pan, to make as many pancakes as will fit.  When the bottoms are golden and bubbles are visible in the surface, flip, and cook until the other side has become golden and the center of the pancake bounces back when lightly pressed.  Place the cooked pancakes on the warm platter in the oven, and repeat, adding more oil and butter to the pan as needed until the batter is gone.

Serve with warm syrup!  Yum!


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Cherry Cake

I don’t really have anything funny, cute or silly to say about this cake.  Just that it’s yummy, tasty, and delicious and I was pleased at how it turned out.  I’m usually very skeptical about trying a new recipe to bring to a party without making a “test batch” to taste first.  But alas, I did the unimaginable, and made a cake that I’d never tried before.  And hallelujah, it was lovely.  As I said to Scott, “this is a re-make cake”, meaning, this cake is good enough to make again. Soon.  Ahhh, I love the on-set of summer!

Cherry Cake barely adapted from The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells

I often make cakes a day ahead, wrap them tightly in plastic and keep them on the counter to be eaten the next day.  I find that a lot of cakes become more moist this way, and this was certainly the case with this cake.  Also, Scott suggested that it’d be fun to brush the top with a little kirsch or cherry brandy.  Perhaps I’ll try that next time when there aren’t a bunch of 1-year-olds partaking in the “adult” desserts!  I did, however substitute cherry brandy for the vanilla that she calls for.  In addition, I think this cake would be wonderful with a 1/2 teaspoon or so of ground cardamom- but you know me!!

Also, I used a 10-inch spring-form pan, rather than a 9-inch, as is called for in the recipe.  It worked beautifully- I simply baked the cake a few minutes less.

  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2/3 cups white sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon cherry brandy or kirsch
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 pound fresh red cherries, rinsed, stemmed and pitted, divided

Place oven rack in the center-most position and preheat oven to 425º.  Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.  Set aside.

Prepare the cherries and cut 3/4 of them in half.  Leave the remaining 1/4 whole.

In the bowl of a kitchen-aid fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on high-speed until they become thick and lemon-colored, about 2 minutes.  Reduce the speed to low and add the melted butter, olive oil, milk and cherry brandy.  Mix just to blend.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the lemon and orange zests and stir to coat.  Spoon the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.  Do not over mix.  Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.  Stir the halved cherries into the batter and pour the batter into the prepared pan, using a spatula to smooth out the top.

Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle the remaining whole cherries on the top of the cake and continue baking for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Place on a cooling rack to cool for about 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the sides of the pan to help it release and then remove the side of the springform pan.  Leave the cake on the pan base until it is completely cool.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate sorbet.  Yes, chocolate sorbet.  Indeed it is, chocolate sorbet.  And it is divine.

For your information, Scott is a crafty gift- giver.  He knows what he’s doin’.  He’s thought it through.  And he knows that giving me things like this for my birthday will prove to be fruitful for all parties involved.  Yes, he is a wise one indeed.  But back to the sorbet…

Dare I call it healthy?  It’s only ingredients are chocolate, cocoa powder,  sugar, water, vanilla, and salt.  It really couldn’t be easier to throw together.  I do believe I even mumbled something about it’s being tastier than chocolate ice cream- if you’re a chocolate-lover, that is.  Because in this sorbet, the chocolate is, well, intense!.  There’s no cream or egg yolk to mask the flavor of that delicious chocolate!

Chocolate Sorbet from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
yields about 1 quart

The recipe calls for Dutch-process cocoa powder, which is different than regular cocoa powder because it contains an alkali which neutralizes the acidity.  It should say “dutch-process” or “cocoa rouge” on the label, and can be found at most well-stocked high-end groceries or here.

Be sure to use a large saucepan for this recipe, as the mixture bubbles up significantly as it’s heated.

  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large sauce pan set over medium heat, whisk together 1-1/2 cups water, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Bring to a boil and whisk constantly for 45 seconds.

Remove from the heat.  Pour in the chocolate and stir constantly until it is completely melted.  Then add the remaining 3/4 cup water and vanilla extract.  Allow the mixture to cool so that it is warm, not hot.  Transfer to a blender and blend on high for 15 seconds.  Chill the mixture completely (4 hours, or overnight).  You may need to give the mixture a little whisking to thin it out slightly before freezing it. Freeze in an ice cream maker.

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I highly recommend being young at heart.  I’m pretty sure it’s good for the soul.  Kind of like singing.  Loud.  Anywhere.  Like in the shower.  Using the shampoo bottle as the microphone.  I’m just offering suggestions.  Really, you can sing into whatever you want.  Like the bar of soap, for instance.  Personally, I’m partial to Simon and Garfunkel in the shower.  Cecilia, you’re breakin’ my heart, you’re shakin’ my confidence daily… But, you know- to each his own…

Anyway, back to the young at heart thing.  I’ve noticed something about Scott.  He’s become a milk drinker.  I can usually tell what he’s had for dinner based on the dishes next to the sink.  Now I’d hate to give you the impression that his meals are un-square but… when all I see are a few crumbs and an empty glass of milk, well, I can make a fairly accurate assessment.

Lo and behold.  Someone has been eating cookies and milk for dinner.  But to be truly young at heart, you really must be a dunker.  You must hold that cookie in your glass of milk sooooo long that it becomes fully saturated and nearly falls to the bottom of the glass.  This is simply how it’s done.   So if you find that you’re striving to be young at heart, I suggest that you give this cookie-milk-dunker-dinner thing a try.  I’ve been taking lessons from Scott and I think I may have a knack for it!

Almond-chocolate sandwich cookies barely adapted from The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook
yields 40 individual cookies, 20 sandwiches

  • 1 cup whole raw almonds, toasted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Place the fully cooled almonds and 3 Tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and grind to the consistency of fine cornmeal.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and remaining sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl and add the egg, extract, and almond mixture, beating to combine.  Scrape down the bowl, and add the flour mixture on low speed, mixing just until combined.  Cover tightly and refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Place an oven rack in the center position, and preheat the oven to 350°.  Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Measure the dough in to 1-teaspoon sized portions.  Place 2 portions at a time on the palm of your hand and roll them to make 2 individual balls.  (This is simply faster than rolling one ball at a time!)  Place the balls 1-1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets, and bake, one tray at a time, until the cookies are lightly golden all over, about 10-12 minutes.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for about 3 minutes, then remove them to a cooling rack.

Prepare a double boiler by placing a heat-proof bowl over a pot of shallow, simmering water- do not allow the water to touch the base of the bowl.  Place the chocolate in the bowl and stir every-so often until it is completely melted.  Using a small knife or spoon, spread about 1/2 teaspoon of chocolate on the bottom of one cookie, then sandwich with another cookie.  Repeat until all the sandwiches have been made.  Allow to cool for at least 2 hours to allow the chocolate to harden (or give them a brief stint in the refrigerator).  Once cooled, store in an air-tight container.

Don’t forget the tall glass of milk!

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