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Winter Brunch Menu

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Last summer I posted quite a bit about my experiment with the Whole30, a nutritional plan that is similar to Paleo: you’re supposed to eat mostly meat, vegetables, and healthy fats, along with some small servings of fruit. The idea is to drastically reduce your intake of sugar, only consuming sugar in its natural form (fruit). I got really enthusiastic about

eating the veggies

and

flank steak suppers

and

chicken with coconut curry

and I could go on… and maybe I will: since resolving to go back to a more Paleo-centered lifestyle a few weeks ago, I’ve dabbled more in tasty ways to make green beans and brussels sprouts, and I’ve fine-tuned my go-to-guac recipe. The results were pretty lip-smacking, so stay tuned for another Eating the Veggies post.

I did, vow, however, that when I entertain, I am allowing myself to create all the sugar and carb-laden concoctions I want. Aside from the joy of eating that stuff, it’s so much fun to cook! So here’s a winter brunch menu that I’ve put together for a few dear colleagues tomorrow on our day off:

  1. Baked Eggs with Tomatoes, Mozzarella & Oregano, from School Night
  2. Baked Parmesan Hash Browns
  3. Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones
  4. Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

Pantry Items Needed
(In order of each recipe)

  • Olive oil
  • 28 oz crushed or diced tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Unsalted butter
  • Baking spray
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Honey
  • Parchment paper

Grocery List
(In order of grocery store layout)

  • Yellow onion
  • Garlic
  • A bundle of scallions
  • Fresh oregano (or another fresh herb of your choice)
  • 3 firm pears
  • Bag of clementines
  • 4 Honeycrisp apples
  • 4 kiwis
  • 4 bananas
  • 3 large lemons
  • Pomegranate
  • Heavy cream
  • 1/4 lb fresh mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated Parm
  • A dozen eggs
  • Frozen hash brown potatoes — Simply Potato recommended
  • Chocolate chips
  • Poppy seeds

Mix the Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones and the lemon poppy seed dressing a day head.

I make smaller scones using this pan from King Arthur Flour. I find that this pan results in really fresh, moist tasting scones.

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Instructions, Scones

  • Generously spray your scone pan with baking spray. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Cut 6 T. of unsalted butter into small pieces and place in the freezer. Place 1/4 cup heavy cream in the refrigerator. Bring eggs to room temperature.
  • Peal and core pears. If you’re making smaller scones, like me, dice them instead of cutting them into chunks.
  •  Roast the pears for 20 minutes, until they are dry and slightly browned.
  • Slide the roasted pears onto a plate and place in the refrigerator to cool down to lukewarm. Turn the oven off.
  • In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt together.
  • Add the cooled pear, diced butter, heavy cream and 1 egg to the dry ingredients. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together.
  • Add 1/4 cup chocolate chips and mix for a few more seconds.
  • Press the dough into the well-buttered pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk one egg with 1 teaspoon water and a pinch of salt. Brush the tops of the scones with the eggwash. Then sprinkle them with 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar.
  • Tightly cover the pan with foil and place in the freezer.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing

  • Measure 3 T. fresh lemon juice and 3 T. granulated sugar into a bowl. Whisk together until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Slowly pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and 3 T. honey until everything is blended thoroughly.
  • Mix in 2 teaspoons poppy seeds. 
  • Transfer to this convenient salad dressing bottle and put it in the fridge.

Morning of…

  1. Bake the scones straight out of the freezer for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F. This is the time for large scones; I would check at the 15 minute mark to see if the smaller scones need less time to bake.
  2. While the scones are baking, prep the Baked Parmesan Hash Browns
  3. While the hash browns are baking, prep the baked eggs
  4. While the baked eggs are baking, prep the fruit salad

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Instructions, Hash Browns

  • Spray a muffin tin with baking spray.
  • Squeeze the frozen hash browns with paper towels to make sure they’ll get super crispy.
  • In a large bowl, mix the bag of dried hash browns, 4-5 sliced green onions, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 2 T. olive oil.
  • Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups and bake 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees F. until crispy.

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Instructions, Baked Eggs
(Serves Four)

  • Chop 1/2 the onion and mince 2 cloves of garlic. Open your can(s) of tomatoes.
  • Bring 8 eggs and 1/4 cup heavy cream out to room temperature.
  • Chop the mozzarella into 1/2-inch pieces.
  • Roughly chop the fresh oregano into 1/4 cup.
  • Set a saucepan over medium-high heat and add 2 T. olive oil. Let the olive oil warm up.
  • Add 1/2 small yellow onion and sauté until translucent. This may take about 5 minutes.
  • Add 2 cloves minced garlic and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in 28 oz diced or crushed tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, and simmer about 15 minutes until the  mixture is thickened.
  • Season to taste and set aside to cool.
  • Place four large ramekins (the cookbook specifies 4 1/2 inch ramekins) on a baking sheet.
  • Spoon 5 T. of the tomato sauce and 1 T. of heavy cream into each ramekin. Top with the mozzarella and the oregano, dividing them evenly.
  • Once the hash browns are done cooking, break two eggs into each ramekin and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake about 15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven — you want the egg whites to be opaque and the yokes set, but still runny in the middle. The eggs will keep cooking a little after you take them out of the oven.
  • Let cool slightly.

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Instructions, Fruit Salad

  • Peel and segment 8 clementines
  • Chop 4 apples
  • Peel and dice 4 kiwis
  • Peel and dice 4 bananas
  • Cut pomegranate arils out of large pomegranate
  • Combine in a large bowl and top with dressing

Enjoy! Here’s to brunching on your day off.

 

 

Zero to Thirty

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Today is a very special day! My nephew, Owen, was born, and he shares a birthday with one of my best friends – today, she turns thirty! I know that male and female friendships are different, and my friendship with the extraordinary Benazir Ali feels like it pretty squarely fits the female mold, but one of the best things that Owen has to look forward to is friendships of this kind. By “this kind,” I mean close, dear friendships that stand the test of distance and time.

In the female universe, at least, this kind of friendship involves a lot of talking — you can speak your mind and more importantly, your heart, without reserve. You can fight and even occasionally say horrible things and genuinely forgive each other a few minutes later. You can be happy for the other person’s joys and at the same time, share your sorrows.

Benazir is Muslim, and I am Christian, but we are constantly asking each other to pray for the other one because…. LIFE IS SO STRESSFUL! Or, to put it more optimistically, we all need our God.

On the day of my nephew’s birth, it seems fitting to share this quote that Benazir sent me earlier this year (I don’t know the source):

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: ‘Do you believe in life after delivery?’ The other replied, ‘Why, of course. There has to be something after the delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what will be later.’

‘Nonsense’ said the first. ‘There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?’

The second said, ‘I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.’

The first replied, ‘That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.’

The second insisted, ‘Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.’

The first replied, ‘Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.’

‘Well, I don’t know,’ said the second, ‘but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.’

The first replied, ‘Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?’

The second said, ‘She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.’

Said the first: ‘Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.’

To which the second replied, ‘Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.’

This is perhaps one of the best explanations of ‘GOD’ I have come across.

Judging by Owen’s swaddled bliss today in the hospital, life immediately after the delivery seems pretty cosy. Here he is with my brother (his uncle, not his father):

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But as Benazir and I both know, the further you climb into this God-filled and suffering-filled life, it can get harder to discern God’s presence. And so God gives you supportive friends, among other things

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And on your birthday, God gives you permission to eat cake.

Someday I’ll know what Owen prefers, cake-wise, but when I asked Benazir, she just said “anything chocolate.”

So Benazir, happy thirtieth! You deserve all of the love and all of the chocolate you can get. You are one of the most intelligent, kind, and strong women I know. Keep climbing 🙂 Whenever you make it to Saint Louis, I’ll make Joy the Baker’s Chocolate Beet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting for you, which I tested with Britta and Nuala, two of my wonderful nieces. It’s delicious.

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Chocolate Beet Cake with Beet Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes one layer cake

Materials

Aluminum foil
Sheet pan, preferably rimmed
Paring knife
Box grater
Cutting board
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans
Electric mixer, paddle attachment
Mixing bowls
Whisk
Spatula
Skewer
Cooling racks
Cake stand

Cake Ingredients

2 medium beets, unpeeled
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
6 oz unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk

Frosting Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
8 oz (1 brick) cream cheese, softened
4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons finely grated beets, mashed with a fork
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or scrapings of one vanilla bean pod
1-2 teaspoons milk, depending on desired consistency
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt

Instructions for Cakes

  • Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Thoroughly wash beets under running water, and trim their leaves, leaving about 1/2 inch of stem.  Place clean beets in a piece of foil.  Drizzle with just a bit of vegetable oil.  Seal up foil.  Place on a baking sheet in the oven.  Roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
  • Remove the beets from the oven.  Open the foil and allow beets to cool completely.  Beets will be easy to peel (just using a paring knife) once completely cooled.
  • Using a box grater, grate the peeled beets on the finest grating plane.  Measure 3/4 cup of grated beets for the cake and 2 tablespoons for the frosting.  Set aside.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Use butter to grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans. Add a dusting of flour to coat the pan. Set pans aside while you prepare the cake.
  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars.  Beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, for one minute after each addition.   Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Once eggs are incorporated, beat in beets and vanilla extract until thoroughly combined.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture.  Beating on low speed , slowly add the buttermilk.  Once just incorporated, add the other half of the dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed until milk and dry ingredients are just incorporated. Try not to overmix the batter.  Bowl can be removed from the mixer and mixture folded with a spatula to finish incorporating ingredients.  Cake batter will be on the thick side… not pourable.
  • Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.  Bake for 23 to 25 minutes (for a 9-inch pan) or 30-32 minutes (for an 8-inch pan).  Cake is done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove cakes from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Invert cakes onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting and assembling the cake.

Instructions for Frosting

  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese for 30 seconds, until pliable and smooth.  Add the butter and beat for another 30 seconds, until well combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Beat in the beets.  Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, lemon juice, and salt.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and silky.  Refrigerate the frosting for 30 minutes before frosting the cooled cakes.
  • To assemble the cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or cake plate.  Top with a generous amount of pink frosting.  Spread evenly.  Place the other cake on top of the frosting.  Top with frosting.  Work frosting onto the sides of the cake.  You will have extra frosting left over.  Refrigerate for an hour before serving (it will make the cake easier to slice).  Cake will last, well wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

 

 

 

 

A Brief History of Willpower

Sarah Robinson An Affair with Chocolate CC BY 2.0I find myself invoking the old D.A.R.E. mantra, “Just say no!” when face-to-face with a bag of Peanut M&Ms or a gooey brownie or say, an entire jar of Nutella. I have a serious weakness for chocolate, and “just say[ing] no” ain’t that easy. I was at my wit’s end a few weeks ago, bemoaning my lack of self-control, when I happened upon The New York Times bestseller Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. I can’t say I bought it entirely devoid of the hope that it would help me unlock my potential for resisting temptation, but it’s also just an interesting read that unpacks a rather elusive concept. Here’s a summary of what I learned in the introduction:

According to psychologists, two qualities determine success and well-being in life: intelligence and self-control. The latter is a malleable quality — like a muscle, it “can…be strengthened over the long term through exercise,” according to Baumeister. When Baumeister and his colleagues conducted a study of over 200 Germans wearing beepers that randomly sounded, requiring the participants to report on the status of their desires, they concluded that “people spend at least a fifth of their waking hours resisting desires,” that “desire [is] the norm, not the exception.” (The desire to eat topped the list, a temptation the participants claimed to be only mediocre at resisting, as compared to the desire to sleep, have sex, or spend money, which made me feel a little better about the moments when I’ve been caught licking spoonfuls of Nutella out of the jar…) Point being, exercising willpower is tough. The authors suggest that it’s gotten tougher throughout history, citing a rigid social hierarchy, a reduced set of temptations, and the enforcing powers of the Catholic church and the threat of public disgrace as reasons why the notion of willpower didn’t exist during the Middle Ages.

The term came about during the Victorian Age, when the decline of religion and the societal changes associated with the Industrial Revolution, such as urbanization, led people to fret about the upholding of moral standards. “They began using the term willpower,” according to Baumeister and Tierney, “because of the folk notion that some kind of force was involved — some inner equivalent to the steam powering the Industrial Revolution.” The popularity of the willpower concept declined in the twentieth century, not least because the mindset of duty and self-sacrifice led to mass deaths during World War I, as well as the Nazi party’s exploitation of such values as obedience and self-denial, even titling propaganda films “The Triumph of the Will.”

Following World War II, the advertising industry in the newly booming economy encouraged Americans to strive for popularity and prosperity, with books like How to Win Friends and Influence People and The Power of Positive Thinking replacing Self-Help and The Power of the Will. Self-help authors espoused the “feel-good philosophy” of achieving success through self-confidence, the “believe it, achieve it” mentality. It seems that with this greater emphasis on positivity, the country’s collective willpower declined somewhat. For example, in The Quest for Identity, psychoanalyst Allen Wheelis wrote that as a result of declining self-discipline, his clients had an easier time getting in touch with their neurotic tendencies (less “character armor” to break down) but they encountered more difficulty in making changes to their lives. Another reason for “the decline of the will” has to do with the prevailing belief among psychologists and social scientists that the conscious mind is ever subservient to the subconscious, that free will is essentially a fallacy. Even author Roy Baumeister was more focused on fostering self-esteem than self-control when he started his career in the 1970s, riding the wave of personal empowerment philosophy, with books like I’m OK — You’re OK and Awaken the Giant Within. 

The resurgence of self-control as an influential force in human life didn’t come from new theories or hypothesizes, but rather materialized as scientists were testing for other phenomenon. A man named Walter Mischel led a study in the 1960s testing how children resisted immediate gratification, in which children were given a marshmallow that they could eat at any time. If they waited to eat it until the experimenter returned, they would also be allowed to eat a second marshmallow. Most of the children who held out succeeded in delaying gratification by distracting themselves, an interesting finding in itself. Years later, Mischel tracked down the children from the experiment, discovering that the four-year-olds who resisted eating the first marshmallow possessed a host of positive traits connected to willpower as adults, from higher SAT scores to higher salaries to a lower body-mass index.

In Losing Control, Baumeister and his wife, Dianna Tice took stock of the benefits of self-control, and prompted a new wave of experiments on the topic. Self-control was found to be the best predictor of a student’s grade-point average, over IQ and SAT scores. It was also associated with higher levels of empathy, lower rates of mental illness, healthier relationships at home and at work, and better finances, among other things. Meanwhile, anthropologists and neuroscientists studied the evolutionary causes of willpower, concluding that humans developed larger brains along with the capability of self-control because of our social nature. The authors write, “Primates are social beings who have to control themselves in order to get along with the rest of the group… For animals to survive in such a group without getting beaten up, they must restrain their urge to eat immediately.”

The introduction ends by defining the elusive concept of “the will” as making conscious choices with a broader awareness of time, “treating the current situation as part of a general pattern.” I think that’s what I’m after re the spoonfuls of Nutella — “just saying no” enough so that giving in is the exception, not the rule, even if desire is a constant. In “Why Will Yourself to Read This?” the authors do promise some practical wisdom on that front, bolstered by social scientists’ understanding of what willpower is, how it works, and how it informs our understanding of the self. For anyone out there seeking greater productivity, better health, or just a sense of self-mastery, this book is worth a read. I’ll continue to post with more insights gleaned, but for now, more power to you.

Two Brownies You’ll Love to Hate

Peter Pearson Chocolate There’s a special joy in preparing something for the second time — or maybe the thousandth, whatever the case may be. It has to do with a flow, an organization, an ease in the kitchen, feeling a command over the various elements at play. I’ve heard Ina  Garten say something to the effect of, “Every cook needs just needs a rotating repertoire of about 10 recipes.” This tends to happen naturally when you enjoy home cooking, but I like the idea of being more intentional about the process of testing new recipes, and the process of organizing and refining the keepers.

What I do know for sure is that it’s essential for brownies to be a part of the rotation. Otherwise there’s a voice in my head that pushes me out the door and along the all-too short path to a convenience store, where I will buy a pack of m&ms and I will graze on them in a manner that is unhealthy. I’m working on that. I am learning that according to Buddhist principles, cravings are inherently toxic to general well-being because they indicate a lack of mindfulness, that is, a disciplining of the mind to discern the difference between reality and the subjective thoughts and feelings that we project onto reality. But enough of that high brow talk — back to brownies. And chocolate. And baking.

Baking is kind of like penmanship. It’s a bit old-fashioned, it requires steady hands, and the ability to follow instructions well. Baking is not life-changing. But baking is life sustaining, feeding us, literally, but on another level, guiding us to toward the present, physical moment, which heals.

I’m really attached to the role that baking has in my life. There was a preteen summer of my childhood during which I requested to my mom that we bake a cobbler most days, and most days we did. My mom was cool like that. Still is. These days, I make enough of a mess cooking, so I have less patience to hand make my own baked goods, special occasions notwithstanding. But I’m no less obsessed with baked goods.

There’s a running list of “stuff I want to make” that I e-mail myself whenever I’m early for an appointment or an exercise class or you name it. There you go — that’s my secret — that’s what I’m doing when I look so “busy” on my phone. For a food obsessed soul who doesn’t always like to be alone with her own worries, perusing food blogs is what I do best. And it pays off. It really does. I tend to know what I’m bringing to the next potluck, or meeting, or family party. (For example, I think it’s about time to test out my mini donut pan and Joy the Baker’s Baked Brown Butter Pistachio Donuts.)

Most recently, I found myself perusing The Vanilla Bean Blog, and in particular, this chocolate loaf cake, adapted from celebrity chef Nigella Lawson’s book, How To Become a Domestic Goddess. (How’s that for a title.) At the top of the post for this “sunken, squidgy, chocolate masterpiece,” blogger Sarah quotes Lawson’s book on the draw of baking:

“In a way, baking stands both as a useful metaphor for the familial warmth of the kitchen we fondly imagine used to exist, and as a way of reclaiming our lost Eden. This is hardly a culinary matter, of course; but cooking, we know, has a way of cutting through things, and to things, which have nothing to do with the kitchen. This is why it matters… Sometimes, we don’t want to feel like a postmodern, post-feminist, overstretched woman but, rather, a domestic goddess, trailing nutmeggy fumes of baking pie in our languorous wake.”

Amen sista. Here are two recipes I tried this past week and then consumed with a fervor. Now I hate them, because even my gym clothes are feeling a bit tight. (It’s probably telling enough that I made both in one week and I live in a two person household.) So dive on in, but watch out — these brownie beauties are goooood.

Walnut brownie Dana Lipárová

Walnut Brownies, Rich and Chocolaty
Adapted from Big Bowl of Love by Cristina Ferrare
Makes 12 large brownies

Ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
Extra butter for greasing the pan, or baking spray
1 8 oz box of Baker’s unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup sugar
2 pinches of salt
2 large eggs, slightly beaten, room temp
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped and toasted in a dry skillet for a few minutes

Things You’ll Need
Wax butter wrap
8-inch square baking dish
Saucepan
Spatula or wooden spoon
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
2 mixing bowls
Whisk or fork
Vanilla extract
Measuring spoons
Measuring cups
Sifter (for homemade cake flour)
Small skillet
Pot holders
Butter knife

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I use an oven thermometer, and I’d highly recommend it. My oven is never accurate and I’d be lost without it. For these brownies I had to press 400 and keep checking the  internal temperature. Ugg.)
  • Unwrap the stick of butter and slice it into tablespoons. Place the sliced butter in a saucepan. Use the butter wrap to grease the baking dish, using extra butter if needed.
  • Coarsely chop 3 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate. Add the chocolate to the saucepan. If needed, place the 2 eggs into a bowl of warm tap water for five minutes to bring them to room temperature. (If not, set them out an hour before you start baking.)
  • Place the saucepan on the stove and over low heat, melt the stick of butter and the chocolate. Regularly stir the mixture, but do so gently. I like to use a heat-resistant, silicone spatula, but a wooden spoon also works. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set a timer for 10 minutes, allowing the mixture to cool (I like to use the kitchen timer on my microwave).
  • Meanwhile, crack the 2 eggs into a small mixing bowl and gently beat them together with a whisk or a fork. Set aside.
  • Measure the cake flour into a separate mixing bowl. If you don’t have cake flour on hand, make your own by following these simple instructions: Measure 1 cup of flour and place it in a sifter over a large bowl. Measure 2 tablespoons from the 1 cup and toss them back in the flour bin. Replace those 2 tablespoons with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift the flour and the cornstarch together about five times.
  • Measure the walnuts, chop the walnuts, and toast them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until they taste fragrant and extra nutty.
  • Coarsely chop the rest of the Baker’s unsweetened chocolate.
  • Add the eggs and vanilla to the chocolate/butter mixture and stir until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  • Add the cake flour (if you made it yourself, 12 tablespoons equals 3/4 cup) and stir until just blended.
  • Add the coarsely chopped Baker’s chocolate and the walnuts. Stir to combine.
  • Pour the batter into the baking dish and spread it evenly. Tap the dish on the counter to get rid of any bubbles.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean. Don’t overbake. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, if you can resist ‘em. Run a butter knife along the outer edge to loosen the brownies from the pan and then slice into large pieces.

http://www.thefoodhound.com/2012/11/07/brownie-pudding/

Single-Serve Brownie Pudding
Adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten
Makes 6 servings

Ingredients
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
Extra butter for the dishes
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons good cocoa powder
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream, for serving, if desired

Things You’ll Need
Wax butter wrap
6 crème brulée dishes, or single-serve gratin dishes
Mixing bowls
Measuring cups
Electric mixer, paddle attachment
Paring knife
Cutting board
jelly roll pan
Large liquid measuring cup
Tongs

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
    If needed, place the 2 eggs into a bowl of warm tap water for five minutes to bring them to room temperature. (If not, set them out an hour before you start baking.)
  • Unwrap the stick of butter and slice it into tablespoons. Place the pieces of butter in a mixing bowl. Melt them in the microwave. Set aside the melted butter and grease each dish with the wax paper. Make sure all the dishes are generously buttered.
  • Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for 5-8 minutes on medium-high speed, or as long as it takes for the mixture to get very thick and light yellow.
  • Meanwhile, place the cocoa powder and the flour in a sifter over a mixing bowl. Sift them together and set the mixture aside.
  • Add the vanilla extract and the cocoa powder/flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Then slowly pour in the melted butter, mixing until just combined.
  • Use a 1/4 cup measure to fill each dish with the batter. Place the dishes on a jelly roll pan and place the pan on the stovetop. Fill a large, liquid measuring cup with hot tap water and fill the pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the side of each dish.
  • Carefully lower the sheet pan into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out mostly clean. They are supposed to be underbaked in the center. Carefully transfer the gratin dishes to a baking rack using a large set of kitchen tongs.

Homemade Thin Mints, à la Emily D.

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 8.39.16 PM“Hope” is the Thing with Feathers Chocolate
That perches ‘tween the teeth
and hurling down one’s gullet,
inspires the soul beneath,

And sweetest in the home is made;
And sore must be the soul
keeping it at bay
when 1/4 teaspoon salt + 1 1/2 cups flour + 3/4 cups cocoa powder
need whisking in a bowl,

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 8.45.02 PM

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter need mixing with the goal of becoming smooth, plus 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract beaten into the electric mixer bowl,

plus 1 cup sugar added in three additions and 1 large egg, whole,
beaten until blended then fold
in the flower mixture gradually (don’t overmix, dough will be sticky) and roll

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 8.42.15 PMdough into two discs, between sheets of plastic, keep cold
in fridge for a few hours then preheat oven to 350, line baking sheets with parchment and re-roll

dough to 1/4 inch thickness, cut cookies with cookie cutters, bake about 15 minutes, dole
out onto cooling racks, melt 6 oz of bittersweet/semisweet chocolate in bowl, cool slightly, dip fork into melted

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chocolate and wave back and forth over cookies, that’s all.
Chocolate can be tricky, whether tartlet, sherbet, nougat
But this humble, girl scout wafer, in its minty purity
didn’t ask a crumb of me —
this was chocolate at its finest; I ate the crumbs with glee.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts.

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