Double Chocolate Cake, Fair Trade Cocoas, & A Giveaway from Lake Champlain Chocolates

chocolate cake with chcolate glaze

Nearly a decade ago, a pan of brownies emerged from my oven that changed everything. Before discovering this recipe, I couldn’t stash enough brownie recipes away, particularly those sounding most outrageous, the ones loaded with chocolate, the more varieties the better.

What inspired me to give this recipe a go, I do not know. There is nothing eye-catching about the ingredient list — unsweetened cocoa powder is the sole chocolate product — or intriguing about the method — it’s a simple two-bowl, no-mixer job. But I did, and while I know there are lots of fantastic brownie recipes out there, I have not tried another recipe since. And every time I bite into one of these brownies, I wonder in amazement how unsweetened cocoa powder on its own can impart such a deep, intense chocolate flavor all the while producing a fudgy, moist and utterly delicious brownie.

I still do not know its secret. I am no food scientist. But over the years I have gotten better at eyeing up recipes and am not so eager to bite at the ones sounding most outrageous. In cakes and quickbreads, it’s ingredients such as buttermilk and oil (as opposed to butter) and unsweetened natural cocoa powder that catch my attention. So when I saw the ingredient list in this chocolate cake recipe on epicurious, I suspected it would be a good one. (The 1,517 positive reviews and blue ribbon decoration may have played a role in that, too.) Continue reading

Pizza with Lemon, Smoked Mozzarella & Basil

pizza with lemon, smoked mozzarella & basil

As much as I love lemons, the thought of placing them atop pizza never would have crossed my mind. Squeezing a wedge of lemon over a slice of white clam pizza — that’s natural; biting into whole slices of lemon, rind and seeds included — that takes some convincing.

But the story and photo of Kesté’s Pizza Sorrentina, a Neapolitan pizza topped with lemon slices, basil and smoked mozzarella, in the WSJ a few weekends ago sent me racing off to the store to find smoked mozzarella. Story goes that this pie was invented in Naples by a great pizza maestro’s daughter who created it for her lemon-adoring mother.

Never would I have imagined this group of ingredients to work so well together, but they do. And it makes sense. Lemon cuts the smokiness of the mozzarella; basil, even after seven minutes in the oven, adds a touch of freshness. The bites with lemon slices are big — tart and tangy and refreshing all at the same time; the bites without beg for one. But the beauty of the pizza lies in the balance: it would be a shame to overdo the lemon, to be flinging pieces aside rather than longing for more.

For lemon lovers, of course, this pie is a winner; but skeptics beware: it’s beguiling enough to win you over, too. Continue reading

Big Apple Pancake

dusted with powdered sugar

I posted this recipe to Facebook over the weekend, so I’ll keep this brief. I have made this big apple pancake two weekends in a row now, and I have a feeling the run will continue for the remainder of the fall. It is one of the most fun recipes to prepare as it comes together in just minutes, puffs dramatically in the oven, and feeds four comfortably (so long as you provide some bacon or sausage on the side.)

This past weekend’s pancake came out better than the first, namely because I followed the instructions and made the effort to pulse the flour-egg-milk mixture in the food processor rather than just whisk by hand, which left the batter extremely lumpy. I also doubled the amount of apple this time around, ensuring that loads of tender apple slices filled every bite.

I love this recipe, but I find the name to be a bit of a misnomer — it tastes nothing like a pancake to me, leaving my pancake-making woes to persist. Alas, with a new delicious addition to the morning repertoire, I have no complaints. Hope you all had a nice weekend. Continue reading

Homemade Angel Food Cake

Graham

On Monday, Graham turned one, and the four of us celebrated the only way I know how, with an angel food cake, the cake my mother made for me and each of my siblings for nearly the first two decades of our lives. Angel food cake played such a role in celebrations growing up that for many years I assumed it was a Greek tradition — seriously, every aunt and great aunt and cousin seemed to celebrate with it, too.

While the absence of fillo and syrup should have perhaps been a giveaway, I was shocked to learn that the tradition in my family started with my mother’s mother who liked everything light light and served her angel cake with a simple chocolate glaze that poured down the cake’s sides freezing halfway down in a beautiful scalloped edge. But even more shocking than learning that angel food cake was not invented by the Greeks was discovering that for many years my mother didn’t make our birthday cakes from scratch. Yes, the woman who would never consider making soup without homemade broth, the woman who turns her nose at jarred roasted peppers, the woman who thinks nothing is more revolting than bottled salad dressing relied on Duncan Hines to make 90% of our childhood birthday cakes.

But I don’t blame her. Boxed cake mixes, particularly angel food cake mixes, are pretty good. And if the ingredients in these mixes were even remotely recognizable, she, and I in turn, would likely be keeping our pantries stocked with them. Continue reading

Molly Wizenberg’s Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing

iced cinnamon rolls

A couple of Sundays ago over a plate of freshly baked French toast, Ben confessed that what he had really wanted to make me for my birthday breakfast was a batch of cinnamon rolls but couldn’t find a straightforward recipe on my blog. Before I bit his head off, I took a sip of coffee and a deep breath, allowing myself time to digest the comment. I didn’t have much of a defense I realized. The single cinnamon roll recipe I have posted about does require making a four-pound batch of dough first.

I assured Ben I would do something about that. The Essentials page definitely deserved a straightforward cinnamon roll recipe and better still one that could be prepared in advance and baked off in the morning.

Instead of flipping through my cinnamon roll file — an exercise that always makes me sleepy — I turned to google, which led me to epicurious and 159 rave reviews of Molly Wizenberg’s cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing. It seemed like a safe bet. I printed the recipe — I still print, do you? — took out some butter to soften and went to bed.

The next morning I set to work kneading dough in the stand mixer, mixing brown sugar and cinnamon, whipping up cream cheese icing. By noon, nine incredibly delicious cinnamon rolls graced our kitchen table and nine more rested in the fridge, an experiment I hoped would yield freshly baked buns the following morning, too. Continue reading

French Apple Tart & Cinnamon Snails

French apple tart, just baked

If you struggle with anger management, this post might be a good one to skip. Just send it straight to your trash can if you’re reading via email; just skip back to the grilled cheese or the French toast, if you’ve happened upon here via google. At apple-rosette attempt three, I envisioned flinging this tart frisbie style straight into my tv; at apple-rosette attempt five, I imagined raising it above my head, slamming it straight down, and splattering it all over my kitchen floor.

Fortunately — and I never imagined saying this — I have a child that drives me to read self-help books. I put myself in a timeout for two minutes (grossly ignoring the minute-per-year-of-age rule, which would have had me sitting for half an hour), during which I took a few deep breaths and told myself to let the apple rosettes go.

When I came out of my quiet time, ready to be a nice girl again, I set to work. Within minutes the tart shell brimmed with fanned apple slices, not quite so pretty as Saveur’s, but pretty nonetheless. And best of all, not too pretty to eat. Continue reading

Baked French Toast

Tartine Bread's baked French toast

Hi there. With it being the weekend and all, I won’t keep you. I just thought, in case you hadn’t decided on breakfast yet, that you might be interested in this baked French toast, a dish I find nearly impossible not to make at least once a weekend. The recipe comes from Tartine Bread, the book that introduced me to eggplant involtini and kale caesar salad, and like those two, this one’s a good one.

While I love this French toast above all for its texture — caramelized on the outside, not soggy on the inside — what distinguishes it from any other French toast I’ve had, baked or otherwise, is the presence of lemon zest, a most-unexpected and delicious flavor in a traditionally cinnamon-spiked dish.

There are a few keys to finding success with this French toast: Continue reading

A Sprouted Kitchen Feast

The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook

I couldn’t make a decision. And my attempts to organize my thoughts — adhering cute page flags to particularly tempting recipes — proved futile. In the midst of this frenzied state of drooling and tabbing, drooling and tabbing, my mother arrived at my doorstep with a bucket of feta (that’s normal, right?), a branch of oregano, and a dozen figs. And at once, my vision for our dinner became clear.

As my mother unloaded her basket of goodies into my pantry and fridge, I waved pages of The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook in front of her. Over every image we ooheh and ahhed; over every title we yummed and mmmmed. My mother soon understood my predicament: everything — from the roasted wild cod with meyer lemon and caper relish to the roasted tomato soup with cheesy toasts to the mushroom and brown rice veggie burgers — looked and sounded incredibly enticing.

But thanks to the ingredients my mother had just delivered, the decision was easy: dinner would be mediterranean baked feta with olives and roasted plum tartines with ricotta, substituting figs for the plums and my mother’s peasant bread for the wheat baguette — I never pass on my mother’s peasant bread. And having just read that Sara, the book’s author, encourages readers to “use the recipes as a starting point and to omit or add ingredients according to preferences,” I felt OK making a few changes. Figs seemed a suitable stand-in for plums, and Sara in fact recommends pears or persimmons in the fall. Yum.

We soon set to work mixing dough, slicing onions, halving tomatoes, making ricotta, mincing garlic and chopping parsley. And before we knew it, we had the makings of a beautiful spread, as colorful as Hugh’s (Sara’s husband) photos, as promising as Sara’s recipes.

The book, while not a small-plate cookbook, offers lots of wonderful ideas in this category. As I flipped through the pages, the recurring thought was: This would be fun for a party. And it makes sense as one of Sara’s goals for the book is to “share recipes that are simple enough to make after work but interesting enough to serve at a dinner party.” She certainly has achieved this. We have now eaten the baked feta with a hunk of bread twice this week for dinner — it is so good — and I have never been so eager to invite some friends over for dinner to show them my new tricks. The fig tartines, which disappeared in record time, lit up the table.

Beautifully photographed, thoughtfully written, the book is sure to inspire whoever comes across it. The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook is now available for purchase.

Preparing the baked feta:
olive topping, oregano, feta

feta, ready for the oven

baked feta with olives and tomatoes

Preparing the roasted fig tartines:
honey roasted figs

roasted fig bruschetta with ricotta and basil

Bucket of feta:
bucket of feta

Mom’s bread:
making my mom's bread

mom's bread

Recipes:

Roasted Plum (or fig) Tartines
Source: The Sprouted Kitchen

Note: I’ve supplied the recipe here just as it is written in the book so that you can take a look and make your own adjustments accordingly. As I noted above, I used figs in place of the plums, but roasted them exactly the same — with honey and salt for about 20 minutes. Also, I made homemade ricotta, which is so easy and delicious, and omitted the parmesan and chopped chives (was feeling a little lazy). Finally, I used fresh basil in place of the microgreens.

6 ripe plums
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons honey, warmed
1 1/3 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped chives
1 whole grain baguette
1 cup microgreens for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cut the plums into quarters (if using figs, cut them in half) and remove the pits. Gently toss the plum pieces with a pinch of salt and the warm honey. Spread them on the prepared baking sheet, cut side up. Bake until the edges are crisped and caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

3. While the plums are baking, in a bowl, stir together the ricotta, Parmesan, chives, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper.

4. Turn the oven up to 500ºF. Slice the baguette in half lengthwise. Place the halves, cut side up, on a baking sheet and bake the bread just until toasty, 4 to 5 minutes. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly on both halves and return to the oven just until warmed through, another 1 to 2 minutes. Evenly distribute the roasted plums on top of the cheese. Finish with a few grinds of pepper and garnish with the greens. Cut each baguette half into slices on the diagonal. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mediterranean Baked Feta
Source: The Sprouted Kitchen

Note: Once you make this once, you’ll never need a recipe again. The quantity of the olive salad is dependent on how much feta you choose to warm up. I baked my block (as opposed to grilled) and served it with warm bread. Heaven.

1 (8- to 10-ounce) block of feta
1 cup assorted baby tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup Kalmata olives, pitted (I didn’t…lazy) and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Crackers, pita chips, or crostini, for dipping

1. Heat your grill to medium-high or preheat the oven to 400ºF. Set the block of feta in the middle of a piece of foil for grilling or in a small ovenproof baking dish twice the size of your block of cheese for baking.

2. In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, olives, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, olive oil and a few grinds of pepper.

3. Pile the tomato mixture on top of the feta. For grilling, fold up the edges of the foil so that it will hold in any liquid as it cooks; put it straight on a grill; heat for 15 minutes to warm it through. For baking, put the baking dish in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. It will not melt, just get warm and soften.

4. Remove from the grill or oven and serve the dip hot with the crackers, pita chips, or crostini.

Honey Almond Butter
Source: The Sprouted Kitchen

Note: This almond butter is SO good. If I wasn’t afraid that I might burn out my Cuisinart’s motor, I would start making this for gifts immediately. I used maple syrup in place of the honey because I am obsessed with this particular Justin’s Nut Butter, but now that I know how to make it, there’s no going back.

2 cups raw almonds
1 teaspoon oil, such as almond, unrefined peanut or extra-virgin coconut (I used coconut and more than a teaspoon)
sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I omitted)
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

1. Place the almonds in a food processor or Vitamix and process for about 1 minute. Add the oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the cinnamon. Continue to process for another 8 to 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the food processor or Vitamix as needed. You will see a change in consistency from crumbs, to big clumps, to a large ball. Finally, as the oil is released from the almonds, the mixture will smooth itself out. If you want it even smoother, add a bit more oil.

2. When it is as smooth as you’d like it, stir in the honey or maple syrup. Add more salt to taste and transfer to a glass jar. It will keep covered in the fridge for up to 6 weeks. (I kept mine at room temperature. It disappeared in three days.)

maple almond butter

Maple almond butter spread on no-knead oatmeal toasting bread:
no-knead oatmeal bread with maple almond butter

Real Frozen Yogurt

frozen yogurt

I’ve been eating frozen yogurt for 15 years. My sister, who used to run to TCBY during high school cross country “practice,” introduced me to it; roommates in college fueled the addiction; California taught me to consider it a major food group.

Over these past 15 years, I’ve genuinely loved each and every bowl of frozen yogurt I’ve eaten, despite how sugary and artificial tasting and generally crappy most of them have been. There’s just something about the ritual of getting a fro-yo with friends that makes whatever’s squirted into the bowl inconsequential, for me at least.

But when I took one bite of this homemade frozen yogurt, a David Lebovitz recipe made with full-fat Greek yogurt, I thought, “Ohhh. This is what frozen yogurt should taste like.” I couldn’t believe it. It actually tasted like, wait for it, frozen yogurt. Yes, like yogurt frozen. I know, I know, mind blowing.

Made with only three ingredients, Greek yogurt, sugar and vanilla, the base for this frozen yogurt comes together in about one minute, and after an hour of chilling, it’s ready to be churned — so simple, so delicious.

And that’s the only trouble with it. It’s so easy to make and so damn good. It’s impossible to walk by the freezer without giving a spoon a little dip-a-roo into its storage container. If you struggle with self-restraint, this is the sort of thing that should only be made while you have a houseful of guests prepared to tuck in immediately after it’s finished churning. Not a squirt will remain. I promise you.

frozen yogurt

yogurt, sugar, vanilla

yogurt, sugar, vanilla

frozen yogurt, churning

frozen yogurt

I thought some sort of granola “bowl” would make a nice vessel for serving this vanilla frozen yogurt. Using another Lebovitz recipe as a guide, I substituted in 1 cup of my granola bar mix for the sliced almonds. The result? Good, not great. Unfortunately, they were too sweet, and the sweetness masked the granola flavor. I’ll report back if I give them another go.

granola cup cookie batter

granola cups, unbaked and baked

granola cups

Frozen Yogurt
Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Yield = 1 quart

3 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Update 8/28: I think I prefer the 2/3 cup sugar quantity. I made about 5 batches without altering the sugar, but just made a batch tonight with 2/3 cup sugar — it’s just a touch less sweet but no less flavorful.

1. Mix together the yogurt, sugar and vanilla. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacture’s instructions.

frozen yogurt in granola bowls

Acrobatic Granola Bars

limber granola bar

At batch 25, I discovered what I wanted a granola bar to be able to do for me: a backbend. No, no — it’s not just that I’m overcome with Olympic spirit and am counting the seconds till I see tumblers spinning across my tv. Well, that too, but it’s mostly that I’ve realized that a granola bar that can hold a backbend without falling apart has just the chew I like.

Over the past few months, many experimentations with various recipes have led to the below formula, which yields a chewy, not-too-sweet bar that can be stored at room temperature in ziplock bags (in contrast to some bars, which require refrigeration to maintain their shape.) During this granola bar-making journey, I’ve gathered elements from many recipes along the way but from three in particular: Sara’s granola bars on Food52 inspired the use of almond butter, which doesn’t dominate in flavor the way peanut butter does; the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe inspired the base mixture of oats, coconut, and sliced almonds in nearly the same ratio as her granola recipe, which is my favorite; and an All Recipes’ recipe inspired the ratio of the “glue” that binds the bars together.

These bars are nearly perfect for me, but that’s not to say they’ll be perfect for you. The “best” granola bar is kind of a personal thing, and if you care to start experimenting, I have one little tip that might help you out: commit to a base mixture and make a big batch of it. As soon as I resolved that oats, almonds and coconut would be my base, I mixed up a big batch and stored it in a ziplock bag. With this base on hand, whipping up new variations of the bars became effortless.

One final note: I am loath to admit that the “glue” in these bars contains corn syrup. Obviously you don’t have to use it if you are opposed. The corn syrup can be replaced with honey, which I can promise will produce just as delicious a granola bar. I just can’t promise it will produce any backbends. It’s your call.

cut granola bars

granola bar mix with blueberries and cashews

almond butter

baking pan

ready for the oven

cut granola bars

cut granola bars

oats, coconut and almonds

Note: I have supplied a “recipe” for a big batch of the granola bar mix, which I have been keeping on hand to facilitate easy experimentation. I use two cups of the mix per batch of granola bars, but if you don’t feel like making a big bag of mix, I have provided the smaller quantities that comprise the two cups in the recipe below.

Chewy Granola Bars
yield = 18 per batch; granola bar mix yields 4 batches

Granola Bar Mix:

4 cups rolled oats
2 cups sliced almonds
2 cups sweetened coconut

1. Combine all in a bowl. Place in a ziplock bag until ready to make the granola bars. (As noted above, this bag will yield 4 batches of granola bars.)

Granola Bars

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
6 tablespoons brown sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup almond butter or peanut butter (I prefer almond butter. PB definitely dominates.)
1/4 cup corn syrup (or honey, just know that the honey might not provide as chewy a texture as you might like)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups of the above mix (or use 1 cup of rolled oats + 1/2 cup slivered almonds + 1/2 cup sweetened coconut)
3 tablespoons wheat germ (toasted or untoasted)
3/4 or 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I use 1 teaspoon, but if you are sensitive to salt, perhaps start with 3/4)
1/2 cup chopped cashews* (I used toasted and unsalted)
1/4 cup dried fruit**

* Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios — pick your favorite
** In the photos, I used dried blueberries, which I thought I was going to love, but which I found to be a little too overpowering. I prefer dried cranberries and raisins, but imagine cherries, apricots, dates and figs would work nicely, too.

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lay a piece of parchment paper over a 9×9-inch baking pan so that it will cover the bottom as well as the sides of the pan. Press the paper into the pan to line it. (If you can secure the parchment paper to the pan with clips, it will help when you are spreading the batter into the pan.)

2. Melt the butter (if you haven’t already), then add it to a small mixing bowl along with the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and vanilla.

3. In a large mixing bowl, add the granola bar mix (or the noted smaller quantities of oats, almonds and coconut) along with the wheat germ, salt, cashews and dried fruit. Toss with your hands to combine. UPDATE: I just made a batch this morning (7-17-2012), and this time I pulsed all of these dried ingredients (cashews and dried cranberries included) in the food processor. I like the texture of the baked bar when the ingredients have been pulsed briefly. It’s your call. You lose a bit of the chunky texture, so if you like that, maybe try one batch with the dry ingredients pulsed and another batch with them not pulsed. Also, you don’t want to purée the ingredients so that they start clumping together. The nuts and dried berries should still be in coarse pieces. (See photo below.)

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until nicely combined. Spread into prepared pan and flatten. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned on top. (The longer you bake it, the firmer the final bar will be. It might take a batch or two for you to realize what texture you prefer.) Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 25 minutes. Pull up on the parchment paper and remove the block from the pan. Lay it on a cutting board and cut the bar into pieces. Let cool completely before storing.

Update 7-17-12: In the batch I made this morning, I pulsed the ingredients briefly in the food processor. I like the texture of the baked bar when the ingredients have been pulsed briefly and will be doing this from here on out.
pulsed granola mix

granola mix

cut granola bars

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
olympic granola bar