This summer I had the greatest trip to Spain with my husband. I’ve written about many parts of the trip and shared many recipes. However, it has taken me months to duplicate a most important recipe. Double Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Principal hotel. You have to understand my husband is not much of a sweet eater and chocolate would never be his first choice. So, when he asked the maître d’ if he could have some cookies to take on the airplane home, I almost fell over.
When we did finally arrive at home I made it my quest to duplicate the recipe. I wrote to the chef. I explained how my husband coveted his cookies and asked if he would share the recipe with me. While I waited for his response I played around with some other recipes. I found a few online and even tried a couple of Dorie Greenspan’s. Each time he tried them and each time the verdict was, “Not the same.”.
I was delighted when I got an email from the chef with his recipe, but it was just chocolate chip cookies. I wrote back and explained it was the dark chocolate chip cookies and he replied right away with the adjustments to make the recipe into the dark cookies. I will say that there were still adjustments to be made. For example, Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion wasn’t an exact science, nor were weight measurements versus cup and tablespoon measurements. So again, I made many versions and they were “Not the same”.
One more try and I got it. Let me tell you that my husband really likes a crunchy cookie and it was hard to get that right without having either burnt or just dry cookies. Remember every oven is different and every taste too. Adjust for your oven and preference.
I hope you enjoy these as much as my husband did. Please put your comments. I love to hear from you. Happy Holidays!
Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with White Chocolate Chips
There is a coffee store every 500 yards, on every block. The coffee shelf at your local grocery store has become the coffee aisle and the fact that bakers have been putting coffee in their chocolate recipes for years, is finally out of the darkness. I wanted to find the perfect recipe to encapsulate all I love about coffee and baking, but wasn’t overtly chocolate. Cappuccino Muffins!
I first tried Cappuccino Muffins when my second daughter was in pre-school. One of the Moms brought them in for the Mom’s whose kids were going through transition. At that point in pre-school you start the day with your child and then go sit outside for a while to make sure they can hack it without you. I have to admit, my girls were always independent enough that I could have dropped them off their very first day and they would have been fine. Other Moms didn’t have it so easy and we could hear their kid wailing, waiting for them to come back in. So those perfect muffins, flavored with espresso, and studded with chocolate chips were just what we all needed to settle our nerves and spark conversation.
I had been given the recipe but have searched high and low for my copy and couldn’t find it. Let the recipe testing begin! It was a truly fun day and I might have a mild case of the jitters, from all the caffeine, but I think I came up with just the right flavor and an added perk of espresso cream cheese schmear. I ran out of my instant espresso powder and my local grocer didn’t have it. They did have Starbuck’s Via Instant Coffee in Italian Roast. That worked just fine.
These are great to make ahead and keep on the counter for about a week. You can also make them and freeze them. I would wrap them individually and grab them on the way out the door. By the time you get to work they will have defrosted and be ready to eat. Even better, you can toast them, from frozen, and use a little of the schmear.
Preheat oven to 425° F.
Grease and line with wax paper a 9x5x3 loaf pan.
Melt chocolate and beat in butter with a spoon or spatula.
Beat egg whites with a hand mixer to stiff peaks; set aside. With same beaters beat egg yolks until thick and light in color.
Slowly add the sugar, beating constantly. Add the flour and beat until just combined. Stir egg yolk mixture into chocolate mixture, then fold egg whites into this mixture. You will have some egg whites still showing.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Reduce oven heat to 350°F and bake 25 minutes.
Let cool completely in pan. Cake will settle like a cheesecake. Turn out. Refrigerate for 4 hours until well chilled. Decorate with abandon!
For most of my life I heard about “Granny”. My Great-Grandmother. By all accounts she was an amazing cook, great seamstress and she was feisty! My Great-Grandfather was 27 years older than her and had come from a family of privilege in Georgia. My Great-Grandfather was “one of the most sought-after bachelors”. By all accounts he was a bit of player and drove a flashy “rubber-tired buggy” with a “trotting horse”. Today that might be compared to a little red corvette. Granny was a schoolmistress that came from a hard working, “good” family. In the 12 years they were married, prior to his death, they had 4 children and she was pregnant with the 5th when he passed. While the story is told of their love at first sight, I’m guessing there was a certain amount of satisfaction in catching the un-catchable.
In 1900 $18,690 would have been the equivalent of approximately $430,000 today. In 1900 that would have meant that you were wealthy. This is how much the savings passbook shows my great grand parents had in the their bank account when Granny started using it to write recipes. That is a lot of money for the time. While they lived a somewhat grand life with servants and a large plantation home, they also were very conscious of using what they could from their own land. They had crops such as watermelon and their own patch for growing fruits and vegetables. They also raised several different types of chickens and had milk, butter and cheese from their own cows.
A grandchild’s imagination can run wild and mine is no different. At first, I imagined my “feisty” Granny getting mad at Ab, my great grandfather’s nickname. Perhaps he had asked her to run ANOTHER errand to the bank on a day when she had sick children and chores to do on the Plantation. I can see her running into a friend and asking for her Watermelon Rind Preserves recipe. When she realized she has no paper, maybe she thought, “I’ll show him the value of his money!” and scratched out the recipe right there on the 4th page of the passbook. I say this because the recipe is quickly given. There is no list of ingredients and amounts, then instructions. It’s all on continuous sentence.
I sometimes fantasize that maybe she really didn’t have any paper and thought it would be “just one recipe”. However, it became her go to for writing recipes when she ran into friends. Eventually, the recipes did evolve and have a list of and amounts ingredients and instructions.
Today we don’t have passbooks and most of our recipes are shared via email, the Internet or pinterest. Having those recipes written in my grandmother’s handwriting is invaluable. As the years passed, after my Grandfather’s death, times got hard for my great-grandmother and her family. She was able to turn to her Brother in law for help and keep her family together, during the depression, World War II and a great cyclone. I still imagine that she would have been teaching us that the value of a rich family history has more value than today’s $430,000.
My favorite recipe was the Jam Cake. This is a traditional southern cake that came out of Tennessee or Kentucky, depending on what website you are looking at. I have searched high and low for a jam cake recipe that was made with wine instead of buttermilk. I’m not sure why Granny made the substitution, but it sure is good!
I’m giving it to you as written and then my version. How lucky was my Granny to be able to bake with such a limited recipe. I hope you enjoy it too.
Beat eggs and sugar together until light colored and ribbony.
Sift flour and baking powder together.
Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add to eggs and sugar.
Slowly add flour & baking powder mix to butter/eggs mixture.
Once flour is completely added, add spices and lastly wine. Blend until just combined.
Pour into 8 or 9 inch cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350°F for 30 - 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
For frosting I make a cream cheese frosting and use a good store bought caramel sauce to make a caramel frosting. Divide the layers. I put an extra layer of jam in between cake layers with the frosting and then frost the whole cake.
You can find my cream cheese frosting recipe in my May 8, 2015 post of Red Velvet cake.
I am a Mom that went to culinary school whose kids like boxed cake mix! I’ve tried many a homemade cake from yellow to red velvet and every frosting imaginable. While they do love my cream cheese frosting they still like, dare I say it, canned frosting and boxed cake mix better.
So when my daughter suggested we do one of those doctored up box cake mix recipes, to add something chocolate to our family holiday celebration. I reluctantly agreed. My only caveat was that it couldn’t have any other processed ingredients. We came really close but the one my daughter wanted had instant pudding in it. I caved.
The directions were “SOOO” complicated. “Empty contents of Bag”. Add in this. Stir in that. I persevered. We greased the pan and baked the mix for the prescribed 30-35 minutes. The whole time I was mumbling under my breath and sighing. How could this be? I make great cakes! Most kids would kill to have me as their mom!
The timer went off and out came a good-looking moist cake. Huh, maybe? We’ll see. It cooled. I poked. It seemed moist and had a nice aroma. Since I managed to get out of the store without buying a can of frosting, I suggested a hack, I knew. The finger taste test was good and so far my daughter approved.
Once the cake was sliced in half, filled and frosted we put it out and we were ready for the harshest of critics…the family. They loved it! Of course every body thought it was one of my recipes and of course my daughter couldn’t wait to tell them it was a doctored up cake mix.
Well at least I can take joy in knowing that there is homemade cake and frosting that I can make with my daughters that they will like. So from my family to yours, enjoy!
*One note- I would love to give credit where due but I honestly don’t remember where this came from. It was a quick screenshot on the phone and off to the store before mom changed her mind.
In a mixing bowl pour cake mix and pudding mix. Turn on mixer and add sour cream. Slowly add vegetable oil.
Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition.
Add milk, vanilla and sea salt.
Add milk, vanilla and sea salt.
Pour into 2 prepared (greased & floured) 8” round cake pans.
Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes in pan then turn out and cool completely on rack.
Frost and serve.
Blend together marshmallow fluff, butter and vanilla.
Slowly add powdered sugar until well blended and consistency is as desired. If it gets too thick you can add some whole milk a couple drops at a time.
Frost cake and serve.
When I read a post where the first thing the author does is make an excuse, I have to admit it is a huge turn off. Julia used to say something to the effect of don’t make excuses for your food whether it’s bad or good, everybody already know’s. Well, Julia, true that but sometimes life just rushes by and you get behind. The ironic thing is I have been writing like crazy, because I have so much to say! It’s the cooking and picture that seem to set me back. So here I am to catch up and I think this first one is a good one.
We finally got a little cold snap her in Los Angeles. I love to think that means we can have a fire in the fire place and snuggle up. I mean what else can you do when it is 50 degrees out (pause for groan from the east coast)? A fire in the fireplace almost always means S’mores. So tonight it meant making my own graham crackers.
I don’t know why I wanted to make my own graham crackers. There was something so intriguing to me. I imagined it would be very complicated so it never occurred to me that I would share it here, under try something new. It was super easy!
I went looking for “Graham” flour. Guess what? Its really just whole-wheat flour that is not sifted during the milling process and is ground coarsely. You can find graham flour in some health food stores. For my purposes I used plain whole-wheat flour. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour Company. I made the first batch exactly as directed. One of my daughters is not a big cinnamon fan and I thought it could be a little more “wheaty” so I made some adjustments and the following is my recipe. It really is simple.
My advice is to be patient when rolling out the dough. You do want to get them very thin. You also will want to have a ruler handy, if measuring out as squares, which is the proper graham shape. I admit I got bored of that and made some squares and some circles with a biscuit cutter. Finally don’t forgo the pricking with a fork. This helps them keep their shape, without puffing up.
Recently a friend asked if I knew how to make French macarons, since she really wanted to learn. I can cook and bake anything so I was sure I could figure it out. When faced with the task, I was stumped. So off to Sur la Table I went, girlfriends in tow, aprons knotted tight and ready to bake. I am now in love with these small sweet treats!
The class focused on classic, almond flavored macaron cookies; the flavor came from the fillings. In class we made a Blackberry Jam and Ganache and Apricot buttercream fillings. The class was great but it only taught us the basics. I knew the cookies could have different flavors and the fillings were endless combinations. I mean these babies are meant to be customized. So, I put my own spin on their recipe and jazzed it up.
Traditionally macarons are made quarter sized. I recommend making them small, bite size, and make a lot! When they’re small, they can be popped in your mouth just like a small candy. I also made a full-sized “Lemon Macaron Tart”, that was out of this world. The lemon curd was extra tart and the macaron was sweet and almond flavored. Delicious!
I have just a few pieces of advice before you dive in.
Make sure you use Almond flour NOT almond meal. I found one , locally, that is called “ultra” fine almond flour.
Use gel colorings and flavorings. You don’t want any added moisture.
This recipe will get you started making macarons. I hope you will get creative and start adding different flavors and colors to the cookie and fillings.
Preheat oven to 300°. Place rack in lower third of oven.
Fit heavy duty baking sheets with parchment or silpats.
They make macaron silpats with circles already drawn.
In a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, put the confectioner's sugar in first then almond flour. Pulse into a fine powder. Do not over process or the powder will become sticky (from the natural oil).
Press (sift) the sugar/flour mixture through a fine mesh sieve. This process may be done up to three times. You are trying to get the smoothest blend possible. You can discard any coarse meal. Set flour mixture aside.
Make the Meringue:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk, add the egg whites and cream of tartar. Start with a slow speed and whisk until eggs start to get foamy.
Gradually add your sugar and start to increase speed. You can add in vanilla or other flavoring, at this point, before peaks start to form.
Once all the sugar is added, watch closely until stiff, glossy peaks form. You DO NOT want to over beat the egg whites! Think shaving cream, not soap suds. When you have the consistency right, you can fold in gel food coloring. Again be sure not to over work the egg whites when folding in color.
Add the flour mixture, to meringue, in thirds. I find a silicone spatula works best. One more time, do not over blend. You should have the consistency of thick ribbons or lava. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip.
I like to trace my circles on parchment paper as a guide, or use the pre-drawn silpat. Hold the pastry bag straight up and down and pipe small circles.
If you are making one large macaron "top", use a 9" pie guide and work in a circular pattern.
Let the macarons stand at room temperature, until they are no longer tacky and the touch of a finger doesn't leave a dent, in the top. The is about 30 minutes.
Bake until crisp and firm, 14-16 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from pan and making sandwiches.
Fill with anything from chocolate ganache or jams to flavored cream cheese. Go crazy!
Lemon Curd Filling
Place all ingredients in a large heatproof bowl and put over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not actually touch the water.
Stir constantly as the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. The mixture will heat and thicken in 10 - 15 minutes. Keep a close eye, to not overcook.
The perfect consistency is when the curds coats the back of the spoon without immediately running when a finger is run through it.
Pulse lemon cookies (enough to make 2 cups crushed) in food processor.
Toss butter and cookie crumbs together and press into a 9" pie dish.
Bake at 350° for 8 minutes.
Let cool completely before filling.
Fill crust with Lemon Curd and gently top with Macaron.
Unless, you’ve been under a rock, you know that the 2016 Rio Olympics are winding down. They have been really exciting and I have enjoyed watching every moment, that I can. Even when I have not been “watching”, I’ve had my television on in the background, listening. The Today show has made a point of featuring lots of local food and drink each day.
Recently, they showed sweets, a very big deal in Brazil, and they talked about Brigadeiros. My ears perked right up because 4 years ago, at a friend’s baby shower, I was served these delicious Brazilian truffles. I use the term truffle loosely. They are almost like a bite-sized molten chocolate lava cakes, with no cake. When you bite into them they are so smooth and creamy, they ooze creamy goodness; but the sprinkles hold them all together.
While I have asked many times for this recipe, I have never gotten it. The recipe is one of those that each cook has their own spin on, so nobody really gives theirs out. It may also be that it is so easy that it doesn’t seem necessary to share a recipe. I loved, when I saw them, for the first time, they were rolled in pink sprinkles for the baby girl my friend was carrying. You can really customize them to any color. So, I did mine in red, white and blue sprinkles and served them in a gold candy cup. Viva America!
It is your lucky day! I am sharing a recipe. I am sharing a chocolate recipe but stay tuned at the end of the recipe and will share some variations.
Make a slurry of cocoa powder and a tablespoon or two of warm water; add more or less as needed. You are doing this because the cocoa powder doesn't dissolve easily into the butter/milk mixture. You want the slurry to smooth and pliable but not too thin.
Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon, constantly. You are stirring to keep the chocolate moving, so it won't burn. Adjust the heat if you need to.
You are looking for the chocolate to start to reduce and get thicker. This could take up to 20 minutes. When it is thick enough you should be able to pull the spoon through the center and have it stay separated a few seconds. Another test is seeing if it holds on the spoon without immediately falling back into the pot.
Once your mixture is smooth and thick, spread it over a pan or plate and put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to cool through. You want it to be "set up", firm.
When the mixture is set, you are ready to assemble. Start by coating your hands with butter. Keep extra close by, you will need to reapply.
Using a small spoon, or melon baller, scoop a small amount of brigadeiro into your hands and roll into a ball. Roll ball in sprinkles. Cover completely. Place in baking/candy cup.
Repeat until all brigadeiro is used. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes to let firm up again, but son't serve too cold.
If you'd like to make a coconut brigadeiro, skip the cocoa powder slurry and instead; add 2 teaspoons light corn syrup and 1/2 cup coconut milk to the sweetened condensed milk/ butter mixture. Once you start your stirring process, add 1/2 cup of shredded coconut and proceed as above.
To paraphrase Julia Child you should never makes excuses for your food. Whether it is good or bad everybody already knows. After a five month absence, I’m back. This is for you Carl!
My pantry is my comfort zone, a larder that has evolved over twenty years of cooking every day. It is my haven and where I go to feel safe. I can look at my pantry and see nothing; my sister looks in my pantry and thinks, “This is where I’m going after the apocalypse.” My pantry is where I go to get my creative juices flowing. It is often where I go to have fun. I can always find a spice, or some ingredient that will spark whimsy and often a party.
There is no one size fits all. You have to start with a few rapid-fire questions. I mean it! Don’t think about your answers. Say the first thing that comes to your mind.
1- what is your (family’s) favorite home cooked meal?
2- what is your breakfast, every morning?
3- what is the meal you cook every week? This may not be the same answer as #1.
4- when asked to bake for a bake sale or office party, what is your go to recipe?
5- when you stand in front of your pantry or refrigerator, what do most often eat as a snack?
6- what is the one recipe that gets the most reaction, wow factor, when you serve it?
Write the ingredients from all your answers down. This is where you will start building your pantry. Be honest with yourself, too. When I was single I may never have thought of turkey burgers. I sleep soundly, now, knowing I have my go to ingredients on hand.
Now I face the conundrum of the well-stocked pantry. Mine is in three parts: Everyday, Panic and Entertaining. Everyday- Here I am a Mom that feeds her family. I can make lunch, snacks, and dinner for my family. This pantry makes me feel nurturing. Panic- this pantry may well have some overlap with Everyday. It has the most basic of ingredients for a quick breakfast and at least chocolate chip cookies for a last minute bake sale. This pantry makes me feel safe. My last pantry is for Entertaining. Here you may find an atypical ingredient, like cherry preserves or capers, in mine. This is the pantry that may get stocked when a specialty ingredient is on sale or as the holidays approach and you know you will be living it up. This pantry excites me. For me some days are utilitarian and on other days I just want to have fun. My pantry in three parts lets me indulge any mood.
Your Everyday pantry will be very personal to you. Here is a glimpse into my Everyday pantry
A quick breakfast item – For me this is grits. For you it may be cereal or pancake ingredients. I like to keep these items at waist high level. That way the kids can be a part of the decision.
We always have PB&J at home – that means not only the best quality peanut butter, but also an almond butter to swipe on a banana for a snack. Because this gets used so often it is on the same shelf that includes the snack items, like dried fruit, or pita chips (for hummus)
A few dinner ingredients – I always have dried pasta on hand and some sundried tomato paste. Sometimes you just have to throw it together quickly and that means dried pasta and jar sauce. I keep sundried tomato paste to stir into jar sauce and give it a richness and fresher taste. I try to keep my pastas, sauces and rice all on the same shelf.
Basics – I always keep cans of tuna (I like the Italian kind canned in olive oil). I like to keep chicken and vegetable broth on hand. They are both great for adding flavor to cooked rice, pasta and vegetables, instead of water. We love tomato soup with grilled cheese so there is usually a box or two of Pacific brand tomato soup. I also use the sundried tomato paste in here and maybe some Pomi diced tomatoes to doctor it up. These items I like to keep all on one shelf.
Baking – I always have flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder on hand. I also make sure there is always a bag of chocolate chips. This makes it easy to do a cake, muffins or cookies at a moments notice.
Spices – I am pretty selective about what spices I will keep on hand. I have small shelves built into the side of my pantry, just right for holding an array of small bottles and jars. However, spices can go bad or lose their potency, quickly. For that reason I try to only “stock up” on the ones I go through quickly. You can see I need to do a New Year purge.There are spice stores popping up that you can but in small, or customized quantities, even some farmer’s markets have spice vendors. I love flake salt so Maldon Salt is always on hand. I love the way a fresh grind of nutmeg can add a secret flavor to cheese dishes so I usually have a couple of whole nutmeg in the house. My husband loves heat so we always have a large container of chili flakes. My daughters love cinnamon and I love garlic so these are staples too. For the cinnamon I give in and buy the Cinnabon cinnamon. They love it so why not? I love a product called Garlic Gold. It is chopped, roasted and then freeze-dried garlic that has amazing flavor. You can buy it dry or packed in olive oil. I use both versions.
Speaking of oils, here is my take. I always have a vegetable oil. I don’t really have a preference of canola or corn. I have a less expensive olive oil for cooking and I have a really high-end olive oil for dressing. When I say high end, I mean you would and could just eat a spoonful of it. It taste that good. One I really like is Laudemio. It has a beautiful green color and a peppery taste.
Alright, get started! To help inspire you, here’s my recipe for Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins. It’s one of my favorites from my everyday pantry.
Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins
This is an easy muffin to make with your well-stocked pantry. This is also a great recipe to add some mix-ins, like chocolate chips or dried fruit.
Ever since Steel Magnolias hit theaters, in 1989, the world seems to have taken notice of Red Velvet Cake. That movie was a great Mother/Daughter story and I thought this recipe would be a great way to honor all the mothers out there for Mother’s Day. Given my interest in history, I wanted to know how this recipe came to be. The women in my family tell a story of trying to keep things appealing and flavorful during the depression. During that time, cocoa powder was scarce and expensive. The rich, dark brown chocolate cakes that were at every celebration suddenly were more gray than brown and didn’t have the full chocolate flavor most people were used to.
Necessity is the mother of invention and many women set out to make this treasured recipe work. Natural fruit and vegetable food colorings were still a novelty on the market. Many bakers experimented with beet juice, teas and even tomato juice to get a color that would appeal to the eye without changing the flavor profile, too much. Soon enough that bright red color was what you saw when you first cut into a many-layered cake.
Recently, I was heard Giada De Laurentis explain a scientific version about alkaline, acid and alkali causing a chemical reaction. My head is spinning just writing it down. It is intriguing but way too much science for me. I’ll just go with needed a better color.
The other complication that was left by using less cocoa powder was the subtler chocolate flavor. You could definitely still taste the cocoa, it just wasn’t as pronounced. To give the cake a flavor punch, the women of the day used a cream cheese frosting. The contrast, of the white frosting and multiple red layers, offered great eye appeal and who can resist a well-made cream cheese frosting?
Eventually, artificial food colorings were introduced, commercially and Red Velvet Cake was off to the races in popularity. Many hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria, claimed their versions as “World Famous”. For my taste, our family recipe is the best!
Be sure to not over bake the cake. It will continue to cook, a little, after it is out of the oven. The toothpick tester may not be completely clean, if you use that method. Be sure to make it your own by adding your favorite decoration or garnish. You can use beautiful fresh berries or even some red cake crumbs on the outside of the cake. Enjoy and Happy Mother’s Day!