Monday, January 31, 2011

Chocolate-Nut Loaf Cake

Chocolate with Francois is a delightful group of bakers who are making one recipe a month from Francois Payard's book Chocolate Epiphany. This month it was my turn to pick the recipe.

The first time I picked a recipe for this group, I chose chocolate macarons. I had an idea the recipe wasn't one of those you throw together at the last minute to thrill guests who drop in unannounced. While the recipe didn't disappoint (you can read about my first experiences with macarons here), this time around I wanted something a little easier. This recipe definitely delivered on that goal.

Although the recipe calls for three kinds of nuts, you could mix it up and use different nuts based on what you have on hand, or even substitute chopped dried cherries (or even prunes, very French) or cocoa nibs for the nuts.

Because I was contributing goodies to a bake sale, I doubled the recipe and made one loaf, 12 cupcakes and 24 mini-cupcakes. The minis almost didn't make it to the bake sale, they were so delicious warm out of the oven. The loaf went to work with me the next day, and I took extra glaze so my coworkers could moisten up the cake. My loaf was a little dry, even though I pulled it out at 51 minutes, the low end of the range. I liked the texture of the cupcakes and minis far more than I did the loaf, and I would stick with cupcakes and minis the next time I make it. Here are a few pointers to help you get the perfect chocolate nut loaf cake:
  • I doubled the recipe across the board and made it in one mixing bowl. Occasionally, I'll double by making two separate batches, but doubling worked just fine.
  • I sprayed the bottom of the loaf pan with cooking spray before putting the parchment in it. That keeps it in position until you pour in the batter.
  • I have a beater blade that I read about on Dorie Greenspan's blog a year or two ago. It makes a huge difference when you're creaming butter and sugar, and it made it easier to beat the almond paste and sugar together for this recipe. If you're interested, you can find it here. They come in different sizes, so make sure you get the right one for your mixer.
  • I don't generally have whole milk, so I combine 1% or skim with heavy cream (which I usually do have on hand). I poured two tablespoons of heavy cream in the measuring cup, and added milk to make 1/2 cup.
  • My hazelnuts were mostly skinned, but some had skins clinging to them. Since the cake is so profoundly chocolate, I didn't worry too much about having perfectly skinned hazelnuts. The skins can be bitter, but they weren't detectable in this cake.
  • Don't let your butter cool too much before using it. Mine did, and I had small chunks of butter in the batter. When they melted, some of the muffins practically boiled in butter. How can this be a bad thing?!? It reminded me of the chocolate canneles, one of my favorite recipes this group has made.
  • I substituted white whole wheat flour for 1/4 of the flour. I could tell there was whole wheat flour based on the texture, but I was looking for it. Because of the nuts and almond meal, I really don't think anyone else noticed.
  • My loaf was done in 51 minutes, my cupcakes at 17 minutes and my minis at 10 minutes.
  • Rather than glazing the cupcakes and minis, I dipped them upside down in the bowl of glaze. I poured the glaze over the loaf, which I had flipped over (so the flat bottom became the top).
We loved this one, and even though my loaf turned out a little crumbly, the cupcakes were perfect, even without the glaze. Check out what the other CwF bakers can find them here.

Chocolate Cake
Printer friendly recipe-cake and glaze
Francois says: Loaf cakes are a staple in French home kitchens. This version is a little more elaborate than a plain chocolate loaf, since it contains a variety of nuts, which add texture to the cake, and two types of chocolate and almond paste for an extra-rich taste. For all these reasons,  this particular loaf makes a great dessert, too; sprinkle chopped toasted nuts and dried fruits over the warm glaze, and serve with Creme Anglaise or vanilla ice cream.

Printer friendly recipe-cake
Vegetable cooking spray, for the pan
1 1/4 cups (135 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (37 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) baking powder
3 1/2 ounces (105 grams) almond paste
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams) sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (112 grams) whole milk
1/4 cup (52 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (60 grams) chopped toasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup (45 grams) chopped toasted almonds
1/3 cup (45 grams) toasted pistachios
1 1/4 cups (20 tablespoons, 270 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Make the cake: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, spray the pan and paper with vegetable cooking spray, and set aside. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder together over a bowl or piece of waxed paper. Set aside.

Place the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of  an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on medium speed until the sugar is incorporated into the almond paste. Mix in the eggs one at a time until they are all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure that everything gets mixed in and that lumps don't form.

Stop the mixer, and switch to the whisk attachment. Whip the mixture on medium speed for about 8 minutes, until it is light and fluffy, then gradually mix in the milk. Add the dry ingredients to the batter, and mix until smooth. Scrape the bowl again. Mix in the chocolate chips, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios until incorporated, then mix in the butter.

Pour the butter into the prepared pan, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the sides slightly pull back from the edges of the pan. Remove from the oven, and let the cake cool to room temperature in the pan, then unmold it over a wire cooling rack and let it cool completely. If you unmold it too rapidly, it will break. You can make the cake 3-4 days ahead, keeping it very well wrapped. Glaze it only when you are ready to serve it.

Chocolate Glaze (make enough to cover a 9-inch cake)
Francois says: Glazing cakes gives them the beautiful, shiny finish you see in pastry shops. A glaze is a loose ganache, made by melting chocolate with hot cream and adding a little corn syrup for shine. In order for the glaze to cover the cake smoothly, it should feel warm to the touch, close to body temperature. If needed, and particularly if the chocolate is not fully melted, fill a medium pot one-third full with water and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and, ensuring that the bowl containing the glaze doesn't touch the water, place it over the pot. Mix until the glaze is smooth and reaches the desired temperature.

Glaze is best used immediately, but you can keep it, covered and refrigerated, for two to three days. Reheat it as directed above, adding a teaspoon of light corn syrup to regain some of the shine that will have been lost in the refrigeration process.

Printer friendly recipe-glaze
8 ounces (250 grams) 61% or 72% chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon (12 grams) light corn syrup
1 cup (250 grams) heavy cream

Place the chocolate and corn syrup in a medium bowl.

Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Strain the mixture into a bowl. Use immediately.

Glazing a cake
Line a baking sheet with wax paper, and place a wire cooling rack on top of the paper. Place the cake to be glazed (make sure it has been chilled) on the rack, and pour the glaze over its top. Use a spatula to even out the glaze and help it run down the sides of the cake. Let it cool at room temperature, and serve within a few hours to make sure that the glaze retains its shine.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nutty, Chocolatey, Swirly Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Sour cream pound cake, swirled with a brown sugar-chocolate-cinnamon-nut mixture, baked in a bundt pan. Sounds pretty good, right?

Jennifer of Cooking for Comfort selected this bundt cake (recipe here) for all of the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers to make this week. It's quite a responsibility to pick the recipe and host, and we all have to wait so long before it's our turn. That's why I hate to say it, but I didn't love this one.

I nixed the raisins in the swirl, and doubled the walnuts. I had a lot of trouble with the swirl layer. I couldn't get the batter to cover it because the sugar in the swirl made it very difficult to cover up. Nonetheless, the cake baked up beautifully with a lovely, crunchy exterior, and a chewy, moist interior. So why didn't I love it?

It was the swirl. The swirl didn't melt in the batter and remained as a layer of raw sugar with a sprinkling of walnuts and chocolate chips. It made the cake fall apart when it was sliced. I'm not a fan of dusting things with powdered sugar, so I topped the cake with Dorie's ganache. That made it a crunchy-chewy-falling-apart-dripping-in-chocolate hot mess.

I do plan to make this one again because the flavor and texture of the cake were great. But I'll skip the swirl and add cinnamon to the cake instead.

Thanks, Jennifer, for hosting this week! Sorry I messed up your pick. :-)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

One of my favorite things about winter (and it's a short list) is when butternut squash shows up in the markets. I serve it many different ways, but our recent favorite is this soup. Once you've wrestled the squash out of it's shell, you're done with the hard work. Change up the spices if you like, and then sit down to enjoy a soup that has absolutely no added cream or butter, yet tastes silky and rich. I like to top it with a dollop of fat free sour cream (or the real stuff, if that's what I have on hand). If you have some butter fried mushrooms, you can put a few of those in the bowl before you ladle in the soup. Butter fried mushrooms? That's another post.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Printer friendly recipe
1 butternut squash (approximately 3 pounds)
Olive oil spray
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
2 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel the butternut squash and slice it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the strings and seeds, then cut it into 1" cubes. Spray a sheet pan with olive oil spray, toss the squash on the pan and spray it with the olive oil spray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the squash starts browning on some of the edges and it's tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.

While the squash is baking, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they are limp but not brown. Add more olive oil if the pan gets dry or if the onions start getting very brown. When the onions soften add the curry, cinnamon and cayenne to the pan and heat, stirring, for 1-2 minutes to awaken the spices. Set aside until the squash is out of the oven.

In a blender or food processor, puree small batches of the squash with the onions and stock. Don't fill your machine more than 1/3 or 1/2 full when pureeing the vegetables and broth! Hot liquids expand and can cause nasty burns. Puree until smooth (or you can leave it chunky if you like). You may need to add extra stock if your blender is struggling with the squash, which is quite dense. Taste for seasoning and add salt or pepper if needed. Ladle into bowls and serve. Makes 6-8 servings.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Best Blondies Ever, for National Blond Brownie Day

A while back, I perused a list of food-related "holidays" and put some of them on my calendar. I don't always get a chance to bake the honored food on the right day, but blondies, especially these, are so easy I managed to fit them in.

I haven't always been a fan of blondies. I've written before that I think they're a pale wannabe to their wildly popular sibling, the brownie. It took a couple of blondie recipes made with brown butter to make me change my mind. This recipe (which I found on Smitten Kitchen) doesn't call for browned butter, but it has the same deep caramel notes I like in the brown butter blondies I've tried. It's a one bowl recipe and the list of possible mix-ins is practically endless. I made them with milk chocolate and white chocolate chips because I had supplies of both that I wanted to use up, but they would be fantastic with my favorite, chopped up Skor bars and walnuts.

I doubled the recipe and baked them in a 13 x 9 pan. They're basically butter with enough other stuff thrown in to hold them together.

Blondies - adapted from Deb of Smitten Kitchen, who found them in How to Cook Everything
Printer friendly recipe
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup/230 grams brown sugar (I used half light, half dark)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup/140 grams all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8 pan with a parchment paper or heavy-duty foil sling, covering all four sides of the pan. If using foil, butter the foil.

Stir the flour and salt together in a small bowl.
Mix melted butter and brown sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Beat in the egg and then the vanilla.
Stir in the flour and salt mixture. Mix in any additions (below). Don't over mix, but you don't want pockets of dry flour.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes (if you double the recipe, they'll need about 30 minutes), or until set in the middle. You don't want them to be gooey in the center, but don't think they'll test done. Cool on rack before lifting the parchment or foil from the pan, peeling it off the blondies and cutting them into tiny squares. Makes 16 blondies, or 32 teeny tiny ones.

For additions, use one or a combination of:
1/2 to 1 cup chopped Skor bars, or half Skor bars and half chopped nuts
1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts, toasting them first for even better flavor
1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup lightly toasted coconut with 1/2 cup chopped toasted macadamias
2 tablespoons of espresso powder with the vanilla, with or without nuts
1/2 cup Nutella
Stir 1/2 cup dried fruit, especially dried cherries, into the prepared batter
Top with a vanilla butter cream or chocolate peanut butter cream frosting (I can't imagine these with frosting unless you're already at the emergency room and are trying to bring on the heart attack)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Vanilla Spice Oatmeal

When I looked at this recipe this morning, I found myself thinking, "Hey, wait a minute! This is what I eat for breakfast almost every day, only better."

Ellie Krieger dreamed up a way to make my morning oatmeal even more yummy, with minimally more calories. I make mine a little differently than she does (I make a single serving in the microwave every morning). With the added flavors of vanilla, chopped toasted pecans and brown sugar, this was so fabulous it will be hard for me  to make it any other way from now on.

My blogging friend Mary of Popsicles and Sandy Feet thoughtfully selected this recipe for Craving Ellie in My Belly. The recipe is available here, or on Mary's blog. If you don't know Mary and her adorable kiddos, make sure you pay her a visit. She's hilarious and sweet, the best combination in my book. Thanks, Mary, for picking a recipe that couldn't have been easier!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lime Poppy Seed Muffins, and Tips for Baking Before Work

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Betsy of A Cup of Sweetness. Lime poppy seed muffins may not be the standard, but I'm going with what I have. I love lemon. When I was thinking of ways to mix it up, I thought of using a pomelo, but then the lime tree caught my eye and I went with lime.

I made these minis one morning and took them in to share with my coworkers. I get a lot of questions from them as they wonder how I manage to bake in the morning before coming to work. Here are a few tips:
  • Coffee comes first. Enough said.
  • I measure most of the ingredients the night before and leave them in the microwave overnight. Why the microwave? I have two adorable but curious 1 year old kittens who love to play in the middle of the night. One morning I woke up to sugar scattered all over the counter and floor. In my early morning stupor, I might turn on the oven without looking inside, but not the microwave.
  • I keep butter in a cereal bowl with a silicone pastry brush in the fridge. When I need to butter a pan (or muffin tins) I pull it out, warm it up in the microwave, butter my pans and stick the bowl and brush back in the fridge.
  • Pick easy recipes. I know better than to attempt a cheesecake before work (I'm an early riser, just not that early).
  • Don't be afraid to finish a dessert at work. I have been known to frost cakes and whip cream in the break room. Sometimes it's easier to haul a bowl of frosting and the cake layers to work than it is to protect your frosted cake from auto mishap (as with this dessert). 
  • If you're making brownies, you can put the batter in the pan and refrigerate, unbaked, overnight. Leave the pan out on the counter while you drink your coffee and preheat the oven.
  • I scoop and refrigerate (or freeze) cookie dough all the time. Some recipes tell you not to defrost, just to bake them a couple of minutes longer, but I like them better when I let them defrost in the fridge over night. You may feel differently, but both methods work. Scooping first makes a big difference. Frozen (or refrigerated) cookie dough is hard to scoop.
There you have it. There are many ways to enjoy fresh, warm baked goods in the morning and these are just a few of them. Experiment and find what works for you!

Bouchon Roast Chicken

I did it. I made the Bouchon recipe for roasted chicken. I think there should be an Olympic gold medal or Congressional Medal of Honor for this recipe.

I've had the Bouchon cookbook for at least five years, but I never dared to attempt the chicken that gets so much praise. Those who have mastered it acknowledge it is a lot of work, but when I glanced at the recipe, I thought "no big deal."

Yeah, right. I completely glossed over the brine, which has to be heated and then cooled before the chicken goes in. I didn't anticipate a recent freeze would impact the thyme supply in my area (true), and I didn't realize I don't own butcher's twine.

I started with a halal chicken (one which is raised humanely and butchered in accordance with Islamic law), which I rinsed and dried. I had made the brine before leaving for work, and I came home at lunch to stick the bird in the brine. The brine, with its assortment of thyme, parsley, rosemary, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, lemon and salt, smelled absolutely fabulous. Even with no prior brining experience, I knew from the smell of the brine that the chicken would be delicious.

When I came home from work, I read the recipe ten times, and searched for a trussing video on YouTube. I found one with none other than Thomas Keller making the Bouchon roast chicken. Except in this video, the chicken roasts on a bed of root vegetables. Great idea. Next time.

Just one problem. No twine and I wasn't about to run to Williams-Sonoma at 7 PM when I still had a chicken to cook. So I improvised--I tied strips of cheesecloth together and used that instead of the twine.

Even with the video, my trussing leaves a lot to be desired. My chicken was listing to one side, and that didn't change after I put it in the pan and into the oven. Keller gives a lot of pointers about roasting the perfect chicken. The chicken should be at room temperature (for more even cooking), sprinkled with lots of kosher salt for even browning, and baked in a hot skillet. After heating the skillet on the cooktop, add a tablespoon of canola oil and let that get hot, then carefully place the chicken in the pan and move to your preheated oven. The chicken roasts at high heat for about 40 minutes. When you remove it from the oven, you baste it all over with the pan juices (to which you've added chopped fresh thyme). Then let it cool until you can eat it without burning off the roof of your mouth.

The chicken turned out to be mindblowingly good. Maybe the best chicken I've ever had. It was so good that I ate the drumsticks and wings for dinner. Standing over the pan. With the skin. I never eat dark meat, or skin, or over the pan. THAT'S how good it was. The breast was even better, moist, tender, melt in your mouth good.

Perhaps it was foolish of me to start my brining and roasting experience with the most revered roast chicken recipe, but my thinking was two-fold. If anyone can teach me how to make a great chicken, it's Thomas Keller. And my blogging friends Kayte and Nancy dreamed up a chef of the month theme for our Twitter avatars, and Kayte chose Thomas Keller for January. We'll all try to cook some dishes from the chef for that month and use one of the photos as our Twitter avatars. Right now, my avatar is Ad Hoc at Home chocolate chip cookies, but this beautiful (to me) roast chicken will have his turn soon. If you'd like the complete recipe (including the brine, which many recipes omit), you can find it here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Brown Sugar Cookies

I almost passed these cookies by and that would have been a shame.  Tracey raved about them, as did a few other bloggers. The first time I made them, I rolled them in sugar as directed, and they were too sweet for me. I now bypass that step (and reduce the sugar and brown sugar accordingly), but I'm giving you the recipe as written in case sweeter cookies are in demand with your tasters.

Brown Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Printer-friendly version

14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups brown sugar, divided
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Heat 10 tablespoons butter in a deep skillet or large saucepan over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from the heat and transfer the browned butter to a large heatproof bowl (for real - the first time I made these, my bowl cracked). Stir remaining butter into the hot butter to melt; set aside for 15 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. In a shallow bowl or baking dish, mix the sugar and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, rubbing between your fingers until combined well; set aside. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in medium bowl; set aside.

Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and the salt to the bowl with the cooled butter and mix until no sugar lumps remain, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula; add egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 1 minute, making sure no flour pockets remain.

Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop out the cookies (you should get approximately 24 cookies, each about 2 tablespoons. Roll the scoops in your hands into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Working in batches, toss balls in reserved sugar mixture to coat and set on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart, 12 dough balls per sheet. 

Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are browned and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between cracks and seem underdone), 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Do not overbake.

Cool cookies on the baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Cool to room temperature. Makes 24 cookies.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chocolate Pecan Tart

Chocolate pecan tart. What could be better (well, other than the photo)? My buddy Susan at Baking with Susan picked this yummy treat from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard for last month's Chocolate with Francois selection. I used a frozen tart shell which had seen better days, but the stellar filling more than made up for the textural challenges of an old crust. I used feves for the chocolate as the tart in the book appeared to have been made with chocolate disks. Next time I think I'll chop the chocolate, and go with a higher percentage chocolate (I used 60%, but I think 70% would make the tart less sweet). Great pick, Susan! Check out Susan's amazing tart, and the recipe, here.

Because my wrist is taking FOREVER to heal, I never posted these chocolate coconut rochers, which I made in November. Joanne at Apple Crumbles selected these treats, and they were amazing. Mine didn't look like the pyramids in the book, but they were gobbled up in no time at all. They were so easy, and I don't think I've ever tasted a macaroon I liked more. Even people who don't like coconut liked these. Two thumbs way up for these cookies, which were easy to boot.

Now I'm all caught up on my baking for Chocolate with Francois. And it's a good thing, because I get to pick the recipe this month.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Walnut Chocolate Dried Cherry Bars

Breakfast on the go is a challenge for many of us. While I normally eat at my desk during the week, weekends are a blur with errands and other commitments. I'm always looking for a quick, healthy grab-and-go breakfast I can eat in the car as I run my errands. Less time spent on errands means more time to relax with my honey!

These bars integrate whole grains, nuts, dried cherries, with little chocolate thrown in for extra deliciousness. Chocolate for breakfast seems so decadent, but with these healthy bars, a little chocolate for breakfast is a doable treat to start the weekend off right.

Heide of Chez Zero picked these bars for Craving Ellie in My Belly this week. You can find the original recipe here, but here's my version.

Walnut Chocolate Dried Cherry Bars -  adapted from So Easy
Printer friendly version
1 cup quick-cooking oats (regular oats are OK, too)
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or regular whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 egg white
3/4 cup chopped dried tart cherries
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts 
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, wheat germ, cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the honey, applesauce, oil, egg and egg white until well combined. Stir in the oatmeal mixture until well combined. Add the dried cherries, walnuts and chocolate chips.

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely and cut into 12 bars, about 4 by 1 1/2 inches each.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chocolate Ganache Madeleines

Margot of Effort to Deliciousness chose this week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie. I know I say this every week, but I really do love Margot. She's a fellow Californian, she has a farmers market that I envy, and I love to read about how she and Josh deal with the massive quantities of baking she does for this and other groups. She was my Secret Baker one month and sent me an amazing assortment of chocolate chip cookies. What's not to love?

When I looked at the recipe in the cookbook, it had a much different persona. Chocolate madeleines are filled with marshmallow fluff (nay) and dipped in a chocolate glaze (yay). Dorie's playing around suggestions included replacing the fluff with Nutella (yay) but I discovered my Nutella expired 18 months ago. How does someone who loves Nutella allow that to happen? Since I was getting ready to go to a conference, I made 1/4 of the recipe, defrosted some ganache, dipped the madeleines and called it a success. Then I ate them all for breakfast after my workout. Yes, I did. And they were fabulous.

If you're looking for a really chocolatey breakfast or a treat to have with a cup of coffee or tea, Margot will have the recipe for you here. And you can find out how the other TWD bakers fared here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chai, My Way

On cold, wet afternoons, I'll ask M. if he wants a little something warm to drink. Usually the choices are coffee or tea, but he invariably asks for chai.

My chai isn't particularly authentic, but it's easy, tasty and low in fat and sugar. Think of it as an easy way to get in a little extra calcium. Drinking it in front of the fire makes a lazy weekend afternoon extra relaxing.

Printer friendly recipe

12 ounces 1% milk (use what you have, but I don't recommend fat free)
4 ounces water
1 teaspoon black tea
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon (heaping) cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Put the milk and water in a medium saucepan over low heat and bring the milk up to a simmer, stirring (as it gets hot, watch it carefully as it will well up and over the side of your pan very suddenly). When it reaches the welling-up stage, stir in the remaining ingredients and let it simmer for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour through a strainer into a 2 cup measuring cup (I use the one I measured the milk in) and pour into two mugs. Serve immediately.  Makes two servings.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Midnight Crackles - Dark, Delicious Chocolate Cookies

If you look sideways, this little guy is smiling because he's so delicious

I know it's a new year and lots of people make resolutions that involve eating less chocolate. I think that's a very sad way to start a new year. Fortunately our Tuesdays with Dorie fearless leader Laurie and her trusty helper Julie agree, because they jointly chose this week's recipe for TWD's third anniversary. Midnight Crackles are chocolate cookies with cloves and cinnamon to add mystery to the vast quantity of chocolate. We don't love cloves so I nixed them and added more cinnamon, plus some espresso powder for extra deliciousness.

And, shockingly, I remembered to check the P&Q for input from other TWD bakers. They found the dough very hard after refrigeration, so I chilled the dough for just 20 minutes before scooping the cookies. The dough was still warm in the center, and so easy to scoop. Plus it tasted great!

I baked half of the scooped (and flattened) cookies immediately and refrigerated the rest overnight. There was absolutely no difference in the two batches, except it was nice to have warm chocolate cookies twice in the same weekend.

These were so yummy that it was hard to share but I did, which is good because although I don't make new year's resolutions, I'm all for not gaining more weight. While I was snapping photos for this post, I was moving different cookies to the plate and passing cookies to M. to hold while I posed them. I asked him to find me the perfect cookie but he couldn't find one without cracks. Once I explained that the cracks were desirable he held one up and said "Then this one is the best one." And that's the one you see above. Carefully handpicked by the love of my life.

If you want the recipe (trust me, you do) you can find it here. And make sure you wish Laurie and Julie a happy 3rd anniversary. While you're there, check out what the other TWD bakers thought of these cookies. You can find them here.