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Arsip Tag: chocolate
Does anyone remember Garbage Pail Kids? Can I go predictably off-course here and admit, as I just did to my husband, who is now cracking up, that I was kind of scared of them when they came out? It was 1985! I was young! I was super into Cabbage Patch Kids and definitely did not have a grasp of parody and was this… something that could happen to a Cabbage Patch Kid? I mean, was it going to happen to mine? Why did everyone find them so funny? Ahem, right, so of course I now find them dark and brilliant, which should be no surprise given that they were co-invented by Art Spiegelman, something I learned exactly five minutes ago from Wikipedia but will now pretend I knew all along.
I bet you’re thinking, as per usual, “What on earth does this have to do with cooking, Deb? Focus, please!” But what I’d wanted to tell you is that for nearly eight years now, I’ve an item on my Halloween To-Cook List called “Garbage Pail Brittle,” which I’d hoped would invoke the chaos of the cards but in a less haunting to elementary school kids format. My theory was that, sure, peanut, almond and fancy seed brittles are lovely and elegant, but you know what would be even more awesome? Rice crispies. Potato chips. Pretzels. Because everyone knows that salt, crispy snacky stuff is aces against caramel, butter and chocolate.
Well, the good news is that I finally got this item off my to-cook list so you don’t have to. The bad news is that potato chips and crispy rice? Just okay in brittle. I mean, nobody hated it, but it wasn’t as special as the eight-year build-up warranted. Pretzels, however… you need to do this. Pretzels are deeply delicious when brittled. They even more spectacular when mixed with salted peanuts. They’re even more insanely good when lidded with melted dark chocolate, smashed into chunks with a hammer and tucked in a container that is, thankfully, about 15 feet outside my reach right now or I’d be one of those wicked, wicked people who lies to children, such as my own, who I lectured this morning about why we can’t have candy for breakfast. I mean, phew.
Something new and wonderful is coming next week! For the last 9 years, we’ve had a pretty barebones newsletter system on Smitten Kitchen; new recipes/posts arrive in your inbox the morning after they’re published. They’re pretty fugly; little has changed in the last decade. For some time, as newsletter technology has vastly improved, I’ve been dreaming of creating a better email, one that is a true weekly digest of all the delicious new and worth revisiting cookery on Smitten Kitchen and at last, that day is here! The new newsletter will include not just new recipes, but seasonal picks and weekly archive highlights, carefully tailored to what we all want to be cooking right now. Sounds good? Enter your email address below and your first weekly email will arrive next week:.
One year ago: Squash Toasts with Ricotta and Cider Vinegar
Two years ago: Potato and Broccolini Frittata
Three years ago: Apple Cider Caramels
Four years ago: Pear Cranberry and Gingersnap Crumble
Five years ago: Buckeyes
Six years ago: Baked Chicken Meatballs
Seven years ago: Pink Lady Cake and Cabbage and Mushroom Galette
Eight years ago: Cranberry Caramel and Almond Tart
Nine years ago: Easiest Baked Mac-and-Cheese
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Crispy Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic
1.5 Years Ago: Lamb Meatballs with Feta and Lemon
2.5 Years Ago: Spring Vegetable Potstickers
3.5 Years Ago: Cinnamon Toast French Toast
4.5 Years Ago: Sour Cream Cornbread with Aleppo
Chocolate Peanut and Pretzel Brittle
A few notes: You can replace the peanuts with pretzels if nut allergies are a concern. I have only made this with corn syrup and/or golden syrup but theoretically, honey
and/or maple syrup (early comment responses on maple syrup: not positive) as a replacement should work as well because the quantity is so small. I didn’t do it here, but thought it might be fun to play around with replacing the water with beer (you could use up to 1/2 cup) for a more grown-up flavor.
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup or golden syrup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup broken-up chunks of thin salted pretzels
3/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
3/4 to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Either grease a large cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Get all of your other ingredients ready; you’re going to need to add them quickly in a few minutes, and you won’t have time to hunt and measure.
Combine sugar, corn or golden syrup and water in a medium saucepan, stirring just until sugar is wet. Attach a candy thermometer and heat over medium-high heat, without stirring, until mixture reaches between 300 and 305 degrees F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you’re looking for a small amount of the mixture dropped into cold water to separate into hard, brittle threads. This takes exactly 9 minutes on my stove.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in butter (until it melts), baking soda, peanuts and pretzels until all are coated. Pour quickly out onto prepared pan. Use a spatula or, even better, two forks to pull and stretch the mixture as flat as you can get it, working quickly. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and let rest for 5 minutes so that they soften. Once they are all soft, use a spatula to spread them over the brittle.
None of us has time or patience for waiting for these to cool, right? I put them directly in the freezer for 20 minutes, after which point the chocolate is firm, the base is cold and I get to bash the brittle into bite-sized chunks. (I like to lift pieces up onto the rim of the baking sheet and use something heavy to break them from there. I do not advise breaking it up with your hands, the warmth of which will make a mushy mess of the chocolate.)
Store in a container at room temperature, far out of your own reach.
Definitely one of the best things about having a 6.5 year old is that he now has classmates that can bestow upon us The Annual Gift of the Thin Mint Cookies. If there were any other Girl Scout Cookies worth celebrating, I knew nothing about them until pickup earlier this week when I saw other parents scurrying off with boxes of curiosities like Samoas and Tagalongs and launched a full investigation. Seriously, why did nobody tell me about those crispy chewy rings of caramel, coconut and stripes of chocolate? Was there always a cookie with both peanut butter and chocolate in it or is this some millennium baby voodoo? Making up for time lost to Thin Mint blinders begins here and now.
The other awesome thing about elementary school kids is genuine excitement over math-y holidays such as this coming Monday’s Pi(e) Day, something that I previously only celebrated sarcastically, because I was a terrible person with a life bereft of wide-eyed wonder. Thus, when I spied a Tagalongs-style peanut butter pie on Tasting Table this week and realized that it was easy enough that I could pull it off in my current sleep-deprived fugue while also filing the vast peanut butter pie-shaped hole in the archives, it was a done deal.
I’ve always been charmed by the idea of peanut butter pies but found them (forgive me, I know how unworthy this makes me) a little goopy and over-the-top in their standard form, to say nothing of the Cool Whip most muddle perfection with. This one, however, is delightfully to the point with equal billing given to a buttery shortbread crumb base, a compact layer of creamy peanut butter (with the essential tangy oomph so many peanut butter desserts miss when they don’t include cream cheese and salt) and a thick shiny layer of dark chocolate ganache with a dusting of sea salt, and it requires all of 10 minutes baking time. Sure, Pi(e) Day could be celebrated with flaky crusts, seasonal fruit and zero PIPIEGI (Processed Ingredients Processed Into Even Greater Ingredients) but really, where’s the fun in that?
One year ago: Black-Bottom Oatmeal Pie
Two years ago: Broccoli Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole
Three years ago: My Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits
Four years ago: Mulitgrain Apple Crisps
Five years ago: The Best Baked Spinach
Six years ago: Warm Mushroom Salad with Hazelnut and Coconut Milk Fudge
Seven years ago: Steak Sandwiches and Pita Bread
Eight years ago: Almond Biscotti and Roasted Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza
Nine years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Caponata
1.5 Years Ago: Herbed Tomato and Roasted Garlic Tart
2.5 Years Ago: Baked Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
3.5 Years Ago: Fig Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah
4.5 Years Ago: Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mint
Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart, Tagalongs-Style
Adapted from Tasting Table
- I swapped the suggested graham crust for a shortbread one closer to the original cookie (but let’s be honest, so much better because: butter). One of the pesky things about crumb crusts is that I find that depending on the crumbs used and how finely ground they are, you might need more or less butter. Here, using shortbread loaded with butter, I only needed 3T melted butter to get the crumbs clumpy enough to form a crust. With the same amount of graham crumbs, I usually need 4T.
- I like to parbake crumb crusts because I think they set much better this way. The sugar helps “glue” the crust together too, but I still use as little as possible.
- I found that the recipe better filled out a 9-inch/1-inch tall tart pan than a standard pie dish. Should you not have a tart pan, you could still make this in a standard (not deep-dish) pie dish, but it might help to only press the 2/3 the way up the sides. Or, if you’d really like to fill out a standard pie pan, you could double the filling and chocolate This should also work in a 8-inch square baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends; this sling will hopefully make the bars easier to remove.
2 5.3-ounce (150 gram) shortbread cookie packages (to yield 1 3/4 to 2 cups shortbread cookie crumbs)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (see note about butter amount)
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (40 grams) powdered or confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (130 grams) creamy peanut butter (I use Skippy but think a more natural one would work just fine here)
1/4 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (about 6 ounces or 170 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
Flaky sea salt, to finish (optional)
Make the crust: Heat oven to 350°F (176#176;C). Place a 9-inch round tart pan (ideally with a removable bottom) on a rimmed baking sheet. Finely grind cookies with sugar and salt in a food processor. Add melted butter and process until clumpy. (See note up top about needing more with other types of cookies.) Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom and up sides of pan. Bake until crust is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. If any parts of the crumb walls have fallen or slumped, you can press them gently back into place with a spoon. Let cool completely. I have no patience for long cooling processes and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar, peanut butter, salt and vanilla together until fluffy with an electric mixer or with good elbow grease, a big whisk. Scrape the mixture into the tart shell and smooth the surface with a spatula. Chill this while you prepare the topping — again, I just slide it into the freezer for 10 minutes. A cold surface helps the chocolate set faster.
Make the topping: Heat chocolate, pinch of salt and cream together in a microwave or saucepan until the chips are mostly melted. Stir until smooth. Let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly then pour over peanut butter filling and gently spread smooth. Sprinkle with flaky salt, if desired. Chill the tart until firm. As you can guess, I do this in the freezer for 15 minutes or so because I like to have my treats as soon as possible. An hour in the fridge would also do the trick.
Serve in wedges. Don’t forget to share.
The recipe, as shown, make a small family-sized cake, 7 inches in diameter. For a larger cake that could easily serve 16, double everything and roll the discs to 10 inches in diameter.
For the darkest, most authentically Oreo/packaged chocolate wafer-ish color, you’ll want to swap half the cocoa with black cocoa powder, also sold as onyx cocoa powder. It’s available here, or in any baking supply shop.
- 1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (20 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup (20 grams) black cocoa powder (see Note; just use more Dutched cocoa powder if you don’t have it)
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine if using a food processor
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons (50 grams) smooth peanut butter
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- A couple pinches salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups heavy (355 ml) or whipping cream, cold
- Chocolate sprinkles, shavings, crunchy pearls or chopped chocolate-peanut butter candies
Peanut Butter Whipped Cream
Make wafers with an electric mixer: Beat butter and sugar together until combined. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add baking powder, salt and cocoa and beat until combined. Add flour and mix just until it disapepars.
Both methods: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll first between 2 pieces of parchment paper until very, very thin and just over 7 inches across. Slide onto board (parchment paper and all) and place in freezer for 10 minutes, until firm. Once firm, peel back top piece of parchment paper (it should now come off cleanly, with a gently pulling back) and use a stencil or bowl with a 7-inch rim to trim it into a neater circle. Slide cookie round and lower piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool completely on paper, which you can slice onto a cooling rack so that you can use the tray again. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough.
It sounds like a lot of work but the best thing is to get into a pattern where one piece is being rolled while another is freezing while the third one bakes and fourth one is cooling so you’re never working with more than one piece at a time. By the time one piece bakes, the next is ready to leave the freezer.
While cookies cool, make peanut butter whipped cream: In a large bowl, beat peanut butter, vanilla, salt and sugar until smooth. Beating the whole time, slowly add heavy cream, a small splash at a time, until peanut butter-cream mixture is loose enough that you can add the rest of the cream without breaking it into clumps. Whip cream, watching it carefully as it’s very easy to overbeat with an electric mixer, until soft peaks form.
Place first cookie on a cake stand. If it’s sliding around, as cookies do, put a dab of whipped cream down first. Once it softens the cookie, it will make it stick. Thickly frost first cookie all the way to the edges with about 1/2 cup peanut butter cream. Repeat with remaining cookies, decoratively swirling the top cookie. Garnish with sprinkles or candy.
Place cake in the fridge overnight or ideally closer to 24 hours so that the cookies soften into cake layers. A knife dipped in warm water will make clean cuts.
Look, no one is ever going to marry me for my pavlova. (I mean, talking about dodging a bullet…) This one was particularly underachieving. First, I thought I’d be clever and try to add the cocoa at the start, mixed with the sugar, so that it would mix the best. Nope! It never fully whipped. With this in the trash, I began my next one, breaking an egg yolk right into the white. I can usually get it all out (tip! use the empty shell as a scooper/skimmer) but not this time. I started a new bowl and, yup, did it again. Finally, with six uncompromised egg whites and cocoa stirred in only at the very end, ensuring a respectably thick, shiny plume of meringue, I began piling my chocolate plumes on a 9-inch round parchment circle, only to realize this wasn’t very bright, as the meringue would spread. I cut a new, larger square of parchment and used the old one as a sling/tube-of-a-pastry bag to land the new one in a great, elegant swirl and then fell over laughing (and texting everyone I know with the picture because: all grownup here!) because it looked precisely like everyone’s favorite emoji. Smoothed into more of a mound, I baked it at the wrong temperature and it got too crispy and riddled with cracks. Anyone left reading from New Zealand just is doing this right now. (Don’t worry, I retested it — woe is me — to confirm that the correct temperature and times are indeed correct.)
But I have one thing going for us, and that’s that this pavlova is the most chocolaty I’ve ever had. The apartment air was steeped with eau de brownies, the very best perfume. Even a day later, this cake of a meringue is decadent but not heavy, basically dessert magic. Do not be deceived, as I have been in the past, by the pale beige shade of the outer shell — inside, it’s like a truffle with the impact of and the texture of a pillow.
One of the reasons I think pavlovas can be a hard sell outside, say, the Pavlova Motherlands of Australia and New Zealand, is that I hear from most people that they find them to be too sweet. But I was able to reduce the sugar a bit from the norm here and didn’t miss it; adding salt also helps as does chocolate, not just because things with chocolate > things without chocolate but because the bitterness of cocoa and chopped chocolate here really kept the sugar in check, as does a plume of barely sweetened whipped cream and a cascade of berries. Let’s not even pretend that we don’t want to swan dive in.
One year ago: Caponata
Two years ago: Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnut Milk and Herbed Tomato and Roasted Garlic Tart
Three years ago: Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
Four years ago: Fig Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah
Five years ago: Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mint and Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Six years ago: Grape Foccacia with Rosemary
Seven years ago: Chocolate Pudding Pie and Roasted Tomatoes and Cipollini
Eight years ago: Braised Romano Beans
Nine years ago: Tortilla de Patatas
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart
1.5 Years Ago: Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie
2.5 Years Ago: Broccoli Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole
3.5 Years Ago: Coconut Bread
4.5 Years Ago: Potato Knish, Two Ways
Chocolate Pavlova with Berries
This was adapted from Nigella Lawson — I use a little more chocolate , added salt and use less sugar but it’s otherwise as delightful as we’d expect from her. It makes a big, pillowy and very chocolaty pavlova. I’ve shown it here with 1-cup-of-heavy-cream level of whipped cream because I was almost out but would have preferred it with a thicker layer and have suggested more below.
- 6 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 (300 grams) cups granulated sugar
- A couple pinches of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup (20 to 25 grams) cocoa powder, the best you have, sifted
- 2 ounces (55 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
- 4 cups mixed fresh berries
- 1 ounce (30 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, to finish
Make the meringue: Beat the egg whites with a mixer until satiny peaks form and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle the sea salt, cocoa, vinegar and then the chopped chocolate over the egg whites and gently fold everything with a rubber spatula. I intentionally left mine a little swirly/undermixed.
Shape the pavlova: You can secure the parchment to the baking sheet with a dab of meringue underneath it. Mound the meringue into the 9-inch circle, smoothing the sides and top if you desire.
Bake the meringue: Place in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees. The pavlova will bake for 60 to 90 minutes, but most likely in the middle. When it’s ready it should look crisp on top and feel dry, but when you prod the center you should feel, in the delightful words of Nigella, “the promise of squidginess” beneath your fingers. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely inside. You can leave it overnight. It can also be kept at room temperature until needed.
To serve: When you’re ready to serve, invert the cooled pavlova onto a big plate and peel off the parchment. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Pile it onto the meringue. Scatter with berries and shave chocolate over with a vegetable peeler. Serve in wedges and keep leftovers in fridge.
Mostly because I have little interest in telling you how to part with your hard-earned money, this isn’t a gift guide. However, ahem, I do purchase a few kitchen-related items each year and thought I’d mention some of the standouts from 2016. [Here’s 2015’s list, all still in heavy rotation.] Most are remarkably basic, either because I had necessities to replace (coughclumsy) but a lot are simple just because I’m incredibly stubborn and it really has taken me this long to buy a second set of measuring cups and spoons, some aprons and a coffee-making apparatus. Not all of these may pack up well in boxes with ribbon — well, except that deliciousness at the end, of course — but I can promise you that they’re getting a lot of mileage in a heavy-use kitchen, and as always, I bought them myself.
Kitchen Things I’ve Bought That I Loved, 2016 Edition
1. Coffee Maker
I don’t make coffee. My list of excuses is miles long — doesn’t ever taste right, don’t have space for anything that plugs in, my french press always left me a puddle of sludge, please don’t make me buy a pour-over kettle too, etc. — but mostly it came down to the fact that because I work from home my morning coffee stop after school drop-off is often the social highlight of my workday as well as a great time to get meetings in, plus running errands with a hot cup off coffee in your hands on a cold day makes errands many times more enjoyable. But, this became increasingly a drag and I’m so glad I came around. This coffee maker is perfect for me — it’s tiny, requires only a stovetop and is rugged — and it took me very little time to become a person who preferred my own homemade coffee to that I can buy — you get it exactly the way you like it, every time. Plus, I make a little every time I make coffee and it’s nice to know I’m wasting much less money these days.
[When I posted a Snap of this a couple months ago, I got many requests for a tutorial. Let me know if there’s interest and I can write it up. I followed many online and was still baffled about how to make half a pot, which is what I need most days, when I am solo. Update: Here’s your tutorial!]
Bialetti Espresso Maker, 6-Cup / Illy Medium Roast
2. New, Instantly Adored Silverware
We looked for new silverware for years before finding what we were looking for at a good price and ended up feeling like we won the lottery. The knives actually cut! The teaspoon is quite tiny and thus perfect for a cup of tea or coffee, or for feeding babies. The tablespoon is perfect for soup, so scoopy! Yes, I just described a spoon as “so scoopy” in case you’re wondering why nobody hires me to write ad copy. The handles are slim, the flatware has weight but isn’t heavy. It feels classic to us, which was important as we’d prefer not to have to replace for a very long time if ever. We bought three sets but it’s already led us to inviting more than 16 people over here twice, so maybe it’s safer to just buy two.
Villeroy & Boch Piemont
3. Braiser, aka a Squat Dutch Oven
Do you have someone who wants to buy you a fancy kitchen gift? Do you have a giant gift certificate for a kitchen supply? You should totally buy a Dutch oven. (I vote for a 5 quart for regular use and a 7/8 quart for big parties, but mostly the 5.) However, should you already have a Dutch oven or if you find it to be more voluminous or heavy than you need for it needs to be for weeknight, I am not sure I use a pot more right now than I do this 4-quart braiser, which is kind of like a shorter, squat Dutch oven. I often use it on the stovetop to saute ingredients and then transfer it to the oven for pasta bakes like this and this. It’s also great for roast chicken in parts as well as smaller quantities of soup (I made mushroom barley in it this week when my bigger pot was being held hostage by stock.) Oh, and it’s dishwasher safe (cast-iron but enameled) which totally counts around here. Mine is from Staub, but what’s key here to me is the size and use, not brand.
Staub 4-Quart Braiser on Amazon / Williams-Sonoma (on sale!) / Zwilling Online
4. Canning Jar Canisters
I have had these for ages but due to an extra clumsy year, I got to buy more! Still, though, they’re minimalist workhorses. I keep sugar, all-purpose flour and other canister-sized dry goods in them; I always know how much I have left (sadly does not always translate to remembering to buy refills when at stores, but they’re jars, not miracles). I love that they’re airtight with gasket lids and dishwasher safe. They’re a little tight for a 5-pound bag of flour — it just makes it with a little shimmying — but are otherwise perfect and the squared shape means they fit more tightly together in the cabinet. I had no trouble using 6 but if that’s too many for you, I suggest finding a friend to split the order with. Everyone has to put their stuff in something, right?
Borgonovo 145-ounce Jars on Amazon / Walmart / and more
5. Menu Planning Board
I am not, sadly, not much of a planner. I don’t do a big batch of prep cooking on Sundays although I know I should. But this board is pushing me in the right direction. I find it impossible with it in front of me to not to make something of a plan, even if it’s just reminding myself we have squash to use up or too much eggs, or that my son requested burgers this week. I’m sure there are prettier options out there, but this basic wipe-off board is doing the trick for us.
8 1/2 x 11-inch Wipe-Off Board
While I’m confessing things: I only began wearing aprons to cook in the last year. I usually just wore clothes I didn’t care about while so I hope you’re sitting down when I drop this earth-shattering knowledge bomb: Whoa, it turns out aprons really make life easier. My current rotation is fittingly high and low: a monogrammable workhorse (mine says DEBOTCHKA) I bought from Williams-Sonoma 10 years ago that’s held up insanely well (still black, even, although the caveat is that it only went into heavy rotation this year); a Game of Thrones geek one my husband got me when I was super-pregnant (it still closed!) and my most recent purchase, a bit more of an investment but I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for stretchy chambray.
[Note: I bought the regular one but if you or someone you know, ahem, is a bit busty, I spoke to the company and they recommended their cross-back aprons for a better fit. I will know this for next time.]
Mother Of Dragons / Williams-Sonoma / Hedley & Bennett
7. Some New Cookbooks To Escape Into
Last year’s cookbooks were tuned exclusively to the theme of wanderlust. This year, there’s some wanderlust and a lot of comfort as well as reminders of all the small victories and triumphs worth celebrating. It’s a happy batch and I’m enjoying them immensely.
How To Celebrate Everything / Classic German Baking / Dorie’s Cookies / Cuba! / Taste of Persia / Everything I Want To Eat / Flavorwalla / Small Victories
8. A Few Small Things
The serrated peeler is something a commenter told me about years ago; it’s perfect for peeling thin-skinned stuff like tomatoes and peaches. Yes, I know you can drop them in boiling water for 10 seconds and slip the skins off but that’s a lot of work for 1 or 2. This is not. I don’t know where my old one went but I replaced it this year.
The dough whisk is great for mixing thick, heavy doughs — like for bread! I have a stand mixer with a dough hook but I’m too lazy to drag it out most of the time for just a pizza dough or smaller project.
Finally, I decided after 10+ years of cooking and two cookbooks that I was finally allowed to buy a second set of measuring cups and spoons. (These are my old ones, which I’ve been very happy with.) Cook’s Illustrated informed me that these are the most accurate. I like that the narrower spoons fit more easily into small jars.
Messermeister Serrated Peeler / Tovolo Dough Whisk / Amco Measuring Cups / Cuisipro Measuring Spoons
9. One Tiny Grill
This spring, we decided we’d had enough of having an outdoor space and no fire-breathing apparatus to exercise our America-given right to burn food on in the summer months and brought home the tiniest, safest and most docile grill ever manufactured, basically the fluffy kitten of the barbecue landscape. Sure, I’d like a big green egg or even something that uses briquettes one, but as for something to hold us over until then, this has been surprisingly wonderful. Even the most unexciting dinner — sausages, chicken cutlets, a heap of zucchini to use up — tastes 100% more exciting and summery when it’s cooked outside.
Tiny Weber Grill
10. A Lot of Sprinkles
Okay, maybe not everything I bought were “essentials.” What do you do when the baking supply store is out of the rainbow sprinkles you like and only have dreadful combinations that lack blues and greens or, worse, include brown? Well, you get what you can and move on. That’s not what happened to me, though, and though I do not in any way advise this madness, I instead bought a container of red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, blue, purple and white and made my own, and I regret nothing. (My mix, by the way, 1 part of each to 2 parts white; the white makes all the colors pop and was surprisingly essential.) I also upgraded my chocolate sprinkles this year from brown-colored wax, basically, to actual chocolate and now we’re ruined especially if my son figures out that other kids get to eat chocolate-sprinkled buttered toast for breakfast.
Various Sprinkles / Real Chocolate Sprinkles
But all of this is just burying the lede, seriously, because this right here is my new favorite homemade candy for gifting or eating, possibly forever. You are not going to believe how easy these are to make, yes, even with a step that involves making caramel. But not the difficult kind! No thermometer is required. The entire sum of ingredients here is sugar, water, almonds, salt, chocolate (chips are fine) and cocoa, sprinkles or sanding sugar to finish.
I set out to make a grown-up candy, the kind that hits the spot at say 4 p.m., keeps almost indefinitely and requires no special machinery. This is loosely inspired by those chocolate-covered almonds at Trader Joes. My favorite, however, are the ones with the caramel crunch underneath but I rarely see them and even when I do, the caramel never has any salt, much to my disappointment because the salty-sweet crunch against dark chocolate and toasty almonds is, to me, essential.
You cannot skimp on the butter. I know it seems ludicrous to use 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) of butter to make one very large pancake, I get it. It even looks like too much. But here, let the Queen of Rationalizing explain it: Most pancake recipes have a few tablespoons of melted butter in the batter plus a few more tablespoons required for frying. This only has it in the pan. And it’s essential because whenever I’ve tried to use less, the pancake sticks in a spot and doesn’t get those glorious rumples (see here). The pancake needs to be able slip along the surface of the pan to do its pretty thing. If you have a nonstick frying pan that’s oven-safe at 425 degrees F, you can probably get away with less; otherwise, just go with it.
An eggier batter made a more dramatic pancake: I most often made big dutch baby pancakes in the David Eyre’s style, 2 eggs in a 12-inch frying pan. But they’re only billowy about 2/3 of the time (see here). When I referred back to the recipe I grew up with, I realized I always used to use more in a big pan, and sure enough, 4 eggs made a much more dramatic, and reliably dramatic, pancake than 2, and was more filling too. Using a little less milk and a little less flour also increased the pouf.
Finally, dutch baby-style pancakes will always partially fall right in the minute after leaving the oven so if you want people to ooh and ah over it, have them stand by the oven when the timer rings.
You can use this recipe to make 1 big 12-inch pancake or 2 smaller 9-inch pancakes. I haven’t used it to make 4 6-inch pancakes, but I have a feeling I will in the near future.
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons (50 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons (15 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, any variety, sifted if lumpy
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk (I use whole)
- 4 tablespoons (60 grams) unsalted butter
- Shaved dark chocolate and powdered sugar (to finish)
- Fresh berries and syrup (to serve, if desired)
Whisk eggs, sugar and salt in the bottom of a medium bowl. Add flour and cocoa, whisking until mostly smooth (some tiny lumps are okay, but whisk out what you can). Drizzle in milk, whisking the whole time.
Heat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet on the stove over high heat. Add butter and melt, tipping the pan around so it butters the sides too. Turn heat off and scrape batter into pan. Transfer skillet to oven and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until pancake is billowy.
Remove from oven and grate chocolate over, to taste. Dust generously with powdered sugar. Cut in halves or quarters and eat with berries and syrup, if desired.
Many years ago, with absolutely no experience or clue, I made a wedding cake for friends. It was fun and I learned a lot, but in the end declared it “fully out of my system.” Apparently, 9 years is the statute of limitations on such claims, which is how it came to pass that when one of my oldest friends asked me to make his wedding cake, the words “that would be so much fun!” flew out of my mouth before anyone could talk me out of it. Would you like to come along for the ride?
Let’s talk about GCC.
The last time I made a wedding cake, the bride loved vanilla and coconut and lime and mango and the groom loved chocolate above all else. Because the wedding was relatively small (under 100), I decided to make both (the largest tier in chocolate and the smaller two in vanilla) everyone had a taste of each. This time, one groom loves peach and blueberry pie, and the other has a thing for things like chocolate and salted caramel; I could never choose between the two either but with a much larger headcount (180 invited), it had to be done. It was made easier when we were brainstorming one night and they announced they both loved German Chocolate Cake. Crisis, averted. Or, at least this one.
Not that I’ve ever made or tasted a German Chocolate Cake before, and so I began with some research. Did you know that German chocolate cake isn’t German? If written correctly, it’s actually “German’s” chocolate cake, as in, named after a guy (Samuel) with the last name German. He developed the baking chocolate in 1852 that now goes by Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. In 1957, 105 years later, Wikipedia tells us that The Dallas Morning News printed a recipe for German’s Chocolate Cake that was created by Mrs. George Clay, a homemaker, which became wildly popular. General Foods, which owned the Baker’s brand at the time, took notice and distributed the cake recipe to other newspapers in the country. At some point, the possessive (German’s) was dropped, leading to all sorts of confusion.
Traditionally, it’s a fairly fluffy mildly chocolate layer cake with a caramel-y custard filling with pecans and coconut. While in many cases, the “back of the box” recipes aren’t exactly considered the best in category, in this case, the one on the Baker’s German Chocolate box is in fact the original, and the gold standard. So, my research began there, and also by picking up slices from a couple bakeries in the city…
You guys, I hated them all. True, it’s just not my favorite (or ever 10th favorite) cake. True, it’s not my wedding, it needn’t be my favorite cake. But even though I knew a coconut pecan custard filling and a pale-ish chocolate cake was never going to make me swoon, I still knew that there had to be ways to get more flavor from them and the grooms were all for it. (I also called in my friend Molly for tastings, as this is her favorite cake and I knew she wouldn’t mince words if my version veered from the platonic ideal of what the cake could be.)
The test version we liked the most, not fully shown here, ended up with bittersweet chocolate instead of “German’s,” some hot coffee to (instead of hot water) give it oomph and some cocoa powder replacing some of the flour to give it a little more chocolate gravitas. To maximize the flavor impact of every part of the filling, I reduced the sugar, swapped in some brown sugar for white, deeply toasted the pecans, lightly toasted the coconut, increased the salt and then, I mean, of course I did, I browned the butter. Here, it makes everything better.
Wedding cake-ing it
I won’t lie, as a wedding cake, it’s not the easiest choice namely because there are so many processes, from melting chocolate, separating eggs, whipping the whites separately, sifting cocoa (mine is always lumpy), and that’s just the cake. The filling, especially the way we preferred it, is full of extra steps (toasting the butter, pecans, and coconut, and more separated eggs), plus it needs to be cooked and cooled. Fortunately, decor-wise, nobody was looking for anything too floofy or traditional, they had no wedding “colors” and we all liked the rustic look of a “naked” (no frosting on the sides) cake. Inspired by Molly Yeh’s stunning forays in to buttercream flower gardens, I figured the relatively absence of other decor would leave me lots of time to try my (way less practiced) hand at something like that for the top. (Stop laughing, quit it, I can hear you.)
After endless staring at wedding cake guides, measuring my oven and weeks of boring hemming and hawing, I concluded that the best way to serve the 140 guests (although this technically could serve 170, I wanted to play it safe because this is not a cake that would cut cleanly plus you lose slices to dowels and more) was with a 14, 12, and 10-inch tier. This was exactly 48 hours before I began baking the cake. Are you getting stressed out reading this yet?
Herein lies my best-laid plan:
• Saturday: Hit up the baking supply store for cake pans, boards, a cake box, dowels, extra piping bags, a few extra piping tips and a bunch of floral-ish food colors.
• Sunday: Lay out the recipe in a spreadsheet to scale it up and finish buying groceries.
• Monday and Tuesday: Bake cake layers, freeze them off, wrap them in plastic.
• Wednesday: Make filling
• Thursday: Fill layers and dowel cake, begin decorations.
• Friday: Stack cake, finish decorating and go go go.
It sounds so organized, right?
Here’s what actually went down:
Saturday: Nailed it. See? We’ve got this.
Sunday: My oven, which hasn’t been great at holding temperatures consistently over the last six months (basically an oven’s job, you could say) seemed to be on the verge of a full meltdown, and thus, so was I. I might have thrown a hissy. Plus: Groceries or as much as we could schlep and stuff under the stroller, which is to say, not all of them.
Monday morning: Back to the grocery store with a rather cranky toddler on a hot rainy day. When we returned, wet, sweaty and already exhausted, a guy was waiting outside my apartment to wheel an old (well, 2 months but it was ugly, dirty and smelled like onions and basically made me want to cry) oven from another apartment that was empty into mine. I glared at it. I resented it. I was so scared I’d be in for another dud but it turns out to work great and I kind of want to give it a biscuit for being such a good boy last week.
Monday afternoon: Baking actually begins. I get the 10-inch tier baked, frozen, then wrapped in a couple layers of plastic. Now that I’m in the swing of things, I’ll be faster tomorrow I told myself.
Tuesday morning: I decide I have time to go to the gym. I do not have time to go to the gym.
Tuesday afternoon: I only have time to bake the 14-inch tier. Each layer’s batter fills a full Kitchen Aid bowl, so I basically have to make the cake twice for each tier. I tried to combine what processes I could but it more often than not led to extra, not less, work such as when I had to then re-divide the buttermilk-chocolate-coffee mixture or rewhip whites because of course they half deflate in the time one layer bakes.
Wednesday morning and afternoon: I bake the 12-inch tier. Very behind schedule, I decide that if the filling for all three tiers will fit in one pot, I’ll make it all at once. 26 egg yolks, 1.5 pounds of brown butter, 2 quarts of half-and-half and 2 children hungry for dinner later, I got impatient for this 6-quart pot to cook and cranked it up. I scrambled the whole thing. It went in the garbage. I went back to the store.
Wednesday night: I made the filling in three batches, one for each tier, as slowly and carefully as a human has ever made anything. I finished up before midnight.
Thursday morning: Baby wakes up at 5 because of course she does. I get a late, sluggish start — but hey, filling cakes doesn’t take long, right? I take the cakes out of the freezer, hoping to work with them semi-defrosted (i.e. sturdier than room temperature but not too icy to cut).
Thursday late morning and afternoon: While trying to divide each of the cake layers into two thinner layers, I remembered why I absolutely hate splitting cake layers and almost always prefer to just bake them up thinner. This tender, soft, fluffy cake was a nightmare; it broke and broke. The filling for the bottom tier kept running out because I hadn’t dam-ed my layers. Jeez, it’s almost like this is why people leave wedding cakes to the professionals.
Thursday, 40 minutes before the kids get home: I decide it’s time to see if I still know how to make buttercream roses, my single piping skill. I watch a bunch of videos, realize there’s no way I’m going to learn anything new at this point and decide to pipe a collection of Florals Not Found In Nature, i.e. various piles of bloops and dollops and spirals in random colors. Possibly for the first time all week, it goes better than I expect. I freeze them on a tray overnight.
Thursday, 11p.m.: We’re about to go to bed and we realize that I might have some trouble doweling and stacking the cake — which has got to be 50 pounds — by myself the next day and do it right then. Remember when Thursday night was date night? Me neither.
Friday morning, somehow it’s 11am and I’m just getting started and we want to leave at 1 and also of course my weekend bag isn’t packed yet either: I arrange the pre-piped flowers all over and basically came up with a frosting hack I’ll now want to do forever involving one frosting bag and multiple tips to make pretty much every color and shape you see on the cake. Should I write it up sometime? I’m thinking about it, but this is already running very long.
Friday, 1pm: I totally botched this quote on Instagram Stories but I’ve always loved this line from Tina Fey about lessons she’d learned from Lorne Michaels in her SNL years:
The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s eleven-thirty.
Which is just to say that while I wondered if I should trim or frost the sides where the filling was leaky or add some chocolate frosting, as it’s traditional too, the cake was declared done because it was time to go. I think it was the right choice.
What I’d do differently next time (just kidding, honey):
• Um, start a little earlier
• Um, probably not curdle the filling
• I’d pipe a ring around the filling in buttercream or more likely use this fudge buttercream and put the cake’s soft filling inside. It prevents leakage. I knew this technique 9 years ago but somehow forgot it until it was a bit too late.
• I don’t want to bore you with even more details, but when you’re baking a cake that’s 12″ or larger or deeper than 3″, it’s usually recommended that you do something to help distribute the heat. There are many techniques and tools (here’s a rough list); I picked a cake heating core. It was all wrong for this cake, I felt like the core never fit properly back in the cake or looked even. I would absolutely skip it next time,
Challah, that stretchy, rich, lightly sweet, braided glossy bread that’s brushed with egg and baked to an burnished burnt umber shine, like many great traditional foods, does not exist in a vacuum. While challah is a Jewish ceremonial bread, eating on Sabbath and major Jewish holidays, and is usually paerve (dairy product-free, so it’s Kosher regardless of what is being served), pulled away from the Judaic lens, it’s a close cousin to brioche and other enriched breads.
And it is from this jump — challah is brioche-like; breakfast buns are brioche-like… — that I began making challah-ish breakfast buns last year. We adore them. They’re less rich and more fluffy than the usual gooey, rich and very sweet cinnamon rolls (which, of course, there is always a time and place for), they go well with afternoon coffee or tea, should you find yourself in the kind of civilized life where this is your norm (and please teach me your ways) but hardly abstemious. My two favorite fillings I auditioned were a sweetened cream cheese with jam (basically tastes like cheesecake) and a chocolate-tahini swirl. For a Food Network episode, we featured the cream cheese buns; they liked the story about my dad growing up in the Bronx and having cream cheese and jelly sandwiches from a local deli (as do I, less so that ridiculous face I’m making in the video still).
But if you think that meant I’d let rich chocolate spirals float off into The Ether of Retired and Forgotten Recipes, you might have missed the part where I mentioned they had chocolate in them. Also: butter, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar to smoothly offset the bittersweet chocolate. (It takes a page from this babka filling.) Also: tahini, but just enough for a toasty, nutty, but not overwhelming effect. You can make a powdered sugar glaze for it; it’s great here with either lemon or orange juice (your choice); I know they often taste over-the-top but here, where the sweetness and richness is slightly restrained, it’s not unwelcome. But my favorite part is that it has that deep varnished top of a good (and here, very lucky) challah.
* I am not sure if you follow @smittenkitchen on Instagram but do know that whenever I find pockets of time, I’m having great fun making stories of recipes I’m working on, such as this. And including their ups and downs, such as when this one just decided not to rise for a couple hours, quite rude of it. (Alas, they expire after 24 hours, so you’ll have to watch this one in the next 2 to 3 hours.) It’s a fun place to share works in progress at a detail level that would be excessive, even for this loquacious site. Sometimes I talk, too, but I mostly try to spare us all that awkwardness.
Have you gotten to check out the book tour for Smitten Kitchen Every Day? It begins the day the book comes out — October 24th — and I’m so excited. I hope your town is on it. I hope this means we finally get to meet. And if you’re in Minneapolis, Nashville, Denver, Atlanta or Montreal… we should have more good news soon (eee!).
Two weeks from today, my second cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites will be leaving warehouses* to reach bookstores or perhaps your front door (if you’ve preordered the book) and I cannot believe it’s so close now. Last month, I shared the trailer for the book and told you all about the book tour that begins the day the book comes out and I promised additional cities would be added. Today is the day! The book tour page — see it in full right here, or click on the image below — now includes Minneapolis, Atlanta, Montreal, Kansas City, Denver, Boulder, Tulsa, Maplewood NJ and an additional book signing in New York City, in addition to the events already planned in Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Dallas, Austin, Houston, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles.
The book launch will be right here in New York City two weeks from tonight at Barnes & Noble Union Square. Amanda Hesser of Food52, New York Times, and James Beard Award-winning fame and I will chat, and a book signing will follow. Prepare to spot all sorts of Smitten Kitchen Family Members, eager to share stories about what a terrible cook I was as a kid.
Will you come say hi? I hope you do. I hope we get to hang out.
Is the book tour not coming to your town? I have you covered. No, I have not figured out how to clone myself (we all know I’d just make the clone do the dishes anyway) but even better, you can pre-order a signed cookbook inscribed any way you wish through The Strand, a beloved bookstore in my neighborhood. I am inscribing these books next week, so if you’d like yours to go out with the other preorders, with the goal of arriving when the book is released, please please please order before 10/16? I will still be delighted to sign all other orders that come in, but it will be when I can stop by between book tour stops.
Pre-Order A Custom Inscribed Cookbook
Finally, just a tiny update: The 92Y event with David Lebovitz had been listed as sold out but they moved it to a bigger room and now it is not. (Yay.)
* If you follow @smittenkitchen Instagram Stories, you might know I flew down to Maryland to personally visit them in their temporary home a week and a half ago.
Now, about that Chocolate Olive Oil Cake.
A year or so ago, I got really obsessed with the idea of making a chocolate olive oil cake for fall. Why is it a fall and not a spring or summer cake? I cannot answer this. I can only tell you that I made one I’d read a lot about but ended up underwhelmed. I’ve been asked before what I do when I bake something that comes out all wrong and I think it’s important that I eradicate any thread of an esteemed opinion you might have left for me with this: I have a tantrum. I stomp out of the kitchen in a huff, or at least the mental equivalent of it, and I’m crabby and cranky and resent the recipe that should have been better and the loss of time I could have been doing anything else. (Like cleaning out my closet!) (Let’s pretend I wouldn’t make 100 other cakes before getting around to it.) When I get past that, I rarely take another stab at it again the next day; we need some space. It’s usually “later,” i.e. whenever the craving strikes again or I think I have a fresh way to go about it. This time it took a year and it was a little of both.
The craving arrived because it was fall, which again, I cannot explain but it might have something to do with the subtle, earthier quality olive oil imparts in chocolate, especially when flecked with sea salt. It feels fall-ish, even if the weather outside is defiantly summer-ish. Separately, someone told me about his family’s go-to chocolate cake that’s made for every birthday that’s plush and perfect and never fails. The recipe had the title Wacky Cake on it. I had never heard of a wacky cake. It turns out I’m among the few.
Wacky Cake — a.k.a. “Cockeyed Cake,” if you’re a Peg Bracken fan, which really, who is not, or Depression Cake — is a single-layer chocolate cake that’s has 7 ingredients, all of which are in your kitchen right now, and takes 5 minutes to put together. Some versions are even mixed in the baking pan. I am completely burying the lede here, but it’s also vegan, as in, butter and milk-free and — this is the crazy part — egg-free as well, no flax eggs or canned bean liquid required. The chocolate glaze here is not traditional, but I couldn’t resist; it too is vegan if you use dairy-free chocolate chips.
Typically, it’s fairly thin and the proportion of cocoa powder to flour is relatively low; it yields a brown cake, but not one chocolaty enough to please the likes of me. I increased the proportions of the cake to make it taller and tweaked the cocoa to be more dominant and ended up with a nearly pitch-black cake. Typically, any oil is used but I found in this cake the perfect chance to realize my chocolate olive oil cake dreams in a cake I think we should all stop what we are doing and make right now. Because if there are people out there whose Tuesdays are not improved by a thick slice of perfect chocolate cake, well, I haven’t met any.