Posts Tagged ‘Sweets’

Vanilla Ice Cream


I may have mentioned that i have a little problem with kitchen gadgets.  I own many of them.  We have an entire closet that is pretty much dedicated to cooking tools (hey, some of them take up a lot of room!  Canning pot, stock pot, sausage stuffer, etc.) but I don’t feel like it’s excessive because I actually use all of them.  Except for one…my ice cream maker.  I’ve had it for 2 years, but there was never enough room in the freezer to actually use it.  It’s the type with a bowl full of some sort of liquid that has to be pre-frozen for about a day in order to operate.  (the kitchenaid attachment actually) That’s a lot of freezer real estate to give up, and despite owning two fridges I could never make it work.

But no longer!  This year my beloved husband bought me a freezer for Christmas.   The second the we plugged it in I gleefully placed my ice cream maker bowl on the top shelf.

Vanilla ice cream seemed like the classic first choice.  I love custard ice cream, and I happen to have a healthy supply of vanilla beans thanks to a online bulk purchase.

So of course I went to David Lebovitz for the recipe.  He is pretty much the expert on ice cream, and he doesn’t disappoint with this one.  Creamy, rich without tasting eggy, and not-to-sweet with a deep vanilla flavor.  Definitely a recipe worth keeping around.  Now I just need somebody to buy me a copy of The Perfect Scoop for my birthday so I can try more of his recipes.

Vanilla Ice Cream adapted  from David Lebovitz

  • 1 c. milk (David calls for whole.  I had skim.  I used skim with a big splash of cream.  Worked)
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 3/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the milk, salt and sugar in a saucepan and warm over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, untill the sugar dissolves.

Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife, and scrape the insides into the mik.  Add the (now empty) pod to the milk, cover with a lid and turn off the heat.

Let the pod steap in the warm milk for about an hour.  I was in a hurry, so I think mine was only in there for about 40 minutes.  It’s still tasty.

Remove the vanilla pod** and reheat the milk over medium low heat till steaming.

Put the heavy cream in a medium sized bowl, and set that bowl in an ice bath.  (if you have lots of time you can probably skip the ice bath.  I used it because I needed my ice cream fast)

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks to combine.  While wisking contantly, pour at least half of the hot milk into the yolks in a slow stream.

Pour the yolk+milk mix back into the saucepan and cook gently, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream and mix to combine.  Stir the mixture in the ice bath until it is cool, stir in the vanilla extract, and then chill until very cold.

Several hours, or even overnight in the fridge is recommended for the chilling, but again, I was on a deadline (dinner party in 2 hours) so I put the whole bowl, still in it’s ice bath, in my lovely new freezer.  I checked on it and stirred every 10-15 minutes and it was completely cold after about an hour.  I don’t care how you do it, but the mixture must be COLD, not just cool, or else you risk thawing your ice cream maker bowl before the ice cream has a chance to freeze (or melting your salted ice if you are really old school).  If you are a fancy pants with a ice cream maker that has a compressor unit this might not be as big of a deal for you, but no reason to make the machine work harder than it has to.  Pretty sure starting with a cold base is supposed to help the texture too.  So yeah, just chill it.

Follow your ice cream maker’s instructions from here on out to turn this delicious liquid into ice cream.

**rinse and dry the spent pod and stick it in a jar with some sugar.  The vanilla scent/flavor will infuse the sugar and then you can use it on all kinds of things.  I like it in coffee.


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I have more kitchen tools than anybody should ever possibly need, and yet every year when Mister makes my Christmas list for his parents he manages to come up with something else that I’ve been ogling.  This year, among other things (ravioli mold!  Yay!) they got me something that I didn’t even know existed.

I had mentioned to Mister during one of our many discussions on the details of our someday house that I wanted a dedicated baking center with an inset marble counter for rolling out butter doughs.   So imagine my surprise when on Christmas I was handed an extremely heavy box containing this:

A marble pastry board!  My in-laws ROCK!  I didn’t know you could just plop a piece of marble on top of your counter and go to town.  Seems obvious now, but apparently I’d missed that page in the Williams-Sonoma catalog.  Dreams of puff pastry and croissants started dancing through my head.  I’ve made puff pastry before, but the only available place to roll out dough in my kitchen (Just say no to tile counters!) happens to be the cheap laminate right above my dishwasher.  Which means that I can’t wash dishes while my dough is chilling and resting since it’ll make the counter hot.  Very annoying.  But now the problem is solved!  I can put my pastry board on top of the tile on my island, and it provides a wonderfully smooth, cold place to roll delicate buttery layers to my hearts content.

So I ran to my Google reader and searched for “flaky goodness”.  (yes really…these are the kinds of search terms I use when I need inspiration) and the very first result was this delicious looking Spiced Apple Danish Braid from Annie’s Eats. I had starred it when I first read it, and it’s obvious why:  Fruit, cream cheese, flaky layers, beautiful presentation…what’s not to love?

I did make some changes though.  I’ve got a ton of homemade jam hanging around (future posts, I promise) so I wanted to see if I could use that as the filling.  I also wanted to eliminate the multiple glazes, to cut down on the sweetness and work a tad.  And it worked!   I also stretched out the resting/chilling over several days, not really intentionally, but everything seemed to come out just dandy anyway.  This makes the recipe really flexible with timing, even though it has a lot of steps.  Perfect for prepping ahead of time and just assembling in the morning when you have overnight guests or friends coming over for brunch or breakfast.

I don’t have pictures of the actual process – so if you need a visual explanation of how this comes together I highly recommend checking out Annie’s blog.  I’ll be as clear as I can though.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish Braid

For the dough:

  • 1.5 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1.5  tsp. yeast (instant or active dry.  See instructions.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup milk (Annie calls for whole.  I only had skim, so I added a splash of cream)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

For the filling:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, room temp
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 cup blueberry jam (or any flavor that you like.  Use one with lots of fruity chunks though)

For the glaze:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 4 Tbsp demerara sugar (or turbinado, muscavado, “raw” or decorative sanding sugar.  Anything with nice big crystals)

If you are using active dry yeast:  Warm the milk slightly.  (I like to nuke it in my glass measuring cup for ~15 seconds.  Test it like you would a baby’s bottle.  If feels hot, it’s too hot.  You want just warm.)   Mix in a sprinkle of the ¼ c. of sugar and then scatter the yeast over the top.   Let sit for 5 minutes, or until frothy.

If you are using instant yeast, skip the above.

Combine 1¼ cups of the flour in the bowl of your mixer with the (remaining) sugar, and salt, milk+yeast combo (or just milk and yeast separately if using instant) and egg.  Mix with the paddle attachment till just combined, then switch to the dough hook and knead until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 7-8 minutes.  (The dough will be sticky but it should be mostly clearing the sides of the bowl even if it’s still sticking to the bottom.  If not, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.)
Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and with floured hands pat it into a square.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

Now…this part is totally cheating.  It worked though.
In a clean mixer bowl, combine the chunks of cold butter with one tablespoon of flour.  Toss lightly to combine, and then mix ON LOW with the paddle attachment until the flour is incorporated.  You do not want to whip the butter at all, or let it get very mushy.  Just smash in the flour.  Scrape the butter+flour paste out of the bowl onto a piece of plastic wrap and using the plastic to help you, form it into a 5” square of even thickness.  Wrap it well and chill for at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough to a 9” square on a well floured and cool work surface.  (i.e. not your counter directly above a running dishwasher).   Place the square of butter (unwrapped) diagonally on the square of dough and wrap the corners of dough into the center to cover the butter.  (like I said…check out Annie’s blog for photo instructions)  Pinch the seams together, and then press your rolling pin into the dough starting in the center and working toward the outside to get everything a little more workable.  Gently roll the dough out into an 11” square, flouring as needed to stop it from sticking.  (all rolling from here on out should be gentle.  This is not pizza dough.  Have a light hand.)

Fold the square of dough into thirds toward the center, like a business letter.  (i.e. fold the top third down over the middle.  Fold the bottom third up over the top.)  Turn the dough 90 degrees, roll it back out and fold again.  This is two “turns”.    Wrap the dough well in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours.  Then repeat this process.  (roll out, fold, turn.  Roll out, fold, chill)

This final chilling period should be at least 4 hours, but I left mine for 2 days.  It was fine.  Just wrap it really well so it doesn’t dry out.

When it’s almost done chilling, make the filling.
Combine the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and milk in a mixer and beat beat beat till light and fluffy.  Scrape down and beat some more.

On a well floured piece of parchment paper, roll the dough out to a 14” square.   Smear the cream cheese evenly over the center third.  Spread the jam evenly over the cream cheese.  Don’t worry about making it pretty, you won’t see it, just get it on there.

So now you have a square of dough with a long rectangle of naked dough on the left and right sides, and filling in the middle.   With a pizza cutter or a knife cut the naked dough into ~ 3/4” strips diagonally in opposite directions.  The left side should be cut heading down and the to the left, and the right side cut heading down and to the right.  You are essentially cutting a dough fringe for the center filling section.   Does this make any sense?  Just go look at the pictures…

Fold the strips over the center, alternating sides, to achieve the braided look.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm spot to proof for 30 minutes.  It won’t rise much, but will look a little puffy.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while it’s proofing.

After it’s done proofing, combine an egg with 1 Tbsp of milk and beat well.  Brush the danish gently with the egg-milk wash.  Sprinkle liberally with sugar and transfer to a baking sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, turning the sheet halfway through.

Let cool to  room temp and slice to serve.  Mmmm…flaky goodness indeed.

On another note:
Yes – I’ve been MIA.  Sorry!  I have resolved to get back into regular blogging.  You wouldn’t believe the backlog of I’ve got.   There are just  folders and folders of crappy pictures of delicious food to share.   You can’t wait, right?

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I went to an all-girls summer camp for two weeks every August from about 4th grade to 10th grade.   The last year I was there I was actually older than some of the junior counselors but I just wanted to squeak in one more year of being a camper.  I LOVED that place.  My sister and I still talk about it as if it was some sort of idyllic fantasy-land.  Which honestly, it kinda was.   You wake up every morning snug in your sleeping bag with the crisp mountain air wafting through the screened cabin, spend all day riding horses, swimming, hiking, canoeing, doing arts and crafts, dancing, and playing tennis and volleyball, and then you lull yourself to sleep at the end of the day by reading books by flashlight under your sleeping bag.  And as you can imagine, all those activities result in a healthy appetite, so thankfully, the food was actually good!  Institutional food is rarely anything more than edible, but the ladies who cooked at my camp kept it simple and tasty (think tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches), and there was always dessert.  My absolute favorite was the gingerbread, which they served with big bowls of whipped cream and lemon curd.

Now that last part may have induced a “huh?”, but trust me.  Gingerbread with lemon curd is not to be missed.  So when I had a half a bowl of leftover lemon curd from my sister’s baby shower, I immediately started looking for something gingerbread-esque to go with it.  And David Leibovitz came through with these chewy ginger cookies.  He paired them with lemon-ginger ice cream, so you know I’m not crazy.  They are dark and intensely gingery, with a soft yet chewy texture.  They are actually non-fat, which is great, but that is totally negated by adding lemon curd.  The cookies call for 2 egg whites, which leaves you two yolks for making a small batch of curd.  Clearly it’s meant to be.

Chewy Ginger Cookies adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes about 20 cookies.

David recommends cooking down applesauce from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup and using that in the cookies for a denser cookie.  I just used apple butter since I have several jars leftover from last year’s apple picking bonanza.  I think the apple butter added an extra level of spicy goodness, so if you were making this with apple sauce I’d consider bumping the spices up by just a pinch.  He also calls for mild-flavored molasses, but I have no idea where you’d find such a thing.  Regular old molasses worked fine for me.  Also, I love that David gives weights because I hate using a cup to measure molasses.   If you don’t have a kitchen scale just give your measuring cup a quick spritz of Pam and the molasses will slide out much easier.

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 apple butter (75 g)
  • 1/3 cup molasses (45 g)
  • 2 1/4 cup flour (315 g)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 1/2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsps ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 egg whites at room temp (set aside the yolks for the lemon curd)
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped candied ginger  (I like leaving a couple of slightly bigger chunks as a nice surprise in some bites)
  • ~ 1/2 cup white sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon for rolling

Beat the brown sugar, apple butter and molasses on medium for about 5 minutes.  Scrape down, add the egg whites and beat for another minute.

Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the wet with the mixer on low.  Mix well.

Stir in the candied ginger and then chill the batter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put your cinnamon sugar in a shallow bowl or dish.

Scoop the batter in heaping tablespoons and plop into the sugar dish.  Roll the balls of dough into rough spheres using the sugar to help keep the sticky dough off your fingers.  They don’t have to be perfect.

See, not perfect:

Place the dough balls on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets with at least 3 inches between balls, because these will spread.

Bake for about 13 minutes, until just barely set in the middle.  They are supposed to be soft, so don’t overcook.  Let cool.

Lemon Curd (not sure where exactly this came from…but it’s lemon curd.  It’s a staple)

Makes a small batch.   I didn’t measure.  Maybe about a cup?

  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp (white) sugar
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 egg yolks

Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest and about half of the butter and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Whisk together the yolks and the rest of the sugar.

Slowly pour about half the hot juice mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly, and then pour the yolks back into the rest of the hot juice in the saucepan.

Cook on medium-low, whisking, until the whisk leaves a trail.

Turn off the heat and add the remaining butter, whisking well to combine as it melts.

Strain into a bowl and press plastic wrap directly to the surface.

Chill at least 30 minutes.

Serve sandwiched between cooled ginger cookies.  Or on top of gingerbread.  Or with a spoon.

(now I want to try making a layer cake version of gingerbread with lemon curd as the center filling and a whipped cream lemon icing.   Hmmm…)

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My mister has very specific taste when it comes to desserts.   He likes chocolatey chocolate chocolate.  He likes cheesecake.  And he likes chocolate chip cookies.  So of course one evening when I found myself with a hankering for some cookies he requested chocolate chip.

I usually make the Tollhouse bag recipe, but I didn’t have any chips and was planning to use a chopped up Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar so I headed off to the interwebs to see which recipe I wanted to make.  Bridget over at The Way the Cookie Crumbles came through big time with a chocolate chip cookie comparison post.  Reading through her comments, I decided on the Cook’s Ilustrated Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies.   She described them as “cookie flavored bubblegum” which doesn’t sound like a glowing recommendation, but I have a thing for chewy cookies.  And chewy they were.  I’m a definite fan, but I have three quibbles:

1. The instructions involve a ridiculous forming, ripping, rotating, reforming process instead of just normal balls.  I tried it, saw absolutly no effect and decided that I was A-OK with my usual scoop and plop method.

2. Freezing had an interesting effect.   I froze about half of the dough and when i cooked it later it came out as a very different cookie.  Still tasty, but it lost a lot of its chew.  Mister actually liked them better this way.

3. The dough tasted strongly of vanilla extract.  I actually didn’t mind that, but Mister did and that meant that when i grabbed a chunk of frozen dough to eat while watching Mad Men on Netflix he handed his piece back to me and I was stuck eating it all on my own.  (ahhhh…first world problems)

So all in all, they were good.  If you want chewy cookies and want to freeze the dough, make something else.  And if you want to eat frozen dough and don’t like the idea of a slight alcohol flavor, make something else.   But if you want warm from the oven, giant, soft and chewy chocolate chunk cookies?  Go for it.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from Cooks Illustrated via The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Makes 1½ dozen giant 3-inch cookies

  • 10.5 oz flour (2 1/8 cups.)
  • ½ tsp salt (I used kosher, because that’s what I have.  I increased it to 3/4 tsp to account for the increased volume of kosher salt)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • ½ c. white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 cups chocolate chunks (semi or bittersweet)

Preheat oven to 325 deg F.

Mix flour, salt, and baking soda.

In your stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, mix butter and sugars well. Add in egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix well.  Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined.  Stir in chunks.

Original Instructions:  Form scant ¼ cup dough into ball. Holding dough ball using fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves ninety degrees and, with jagged surfaces exposed, join halves together at their base, again forming a single cookie, being careful not to smooth dough’s uneven surface. Place formed dough onto one of two parchment paper-lined 20-by-14-inch lipless cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. Smaller cookie sheets can be used, but fewer cookies can be baked at one time and baking time may need to be adjusted. (Seriously America’s Test Kitchen?  I know overly complicated recipes are like, your thing, but still.   Ridiculous.  There was no discernible difference between cookies made using this method and the scoop and plop below.)

My Version:  Scoop into balls using a large spring loaded scooper or two tablespoons.   Make the balls big.  Giant cookies are better than little cookies when it comes to chewy.  Places the balls onto silpat lined cookie sheets, about 9 per sheet.

Bake, switching your cookie sheets top to bottom halfway through baking if you are lucky enough to actually have an oven that will hold two sheets at once, 13 to 18 minutes.  They will be lightly colored, and set and crispy around the edges but still soft in the middles.  Leave them on the sheets to cool and then eat while still slightly warm.  With a glass of milk.

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Go-To Yellow Cake

I admit it, I’m a box cake snob.  I’ll eat them, happily, in giant pieces slathered in frosting.  But I won’t cook them.  I just can’t make myself do it.

I wanted to have a counterpoint to my favorite chocolate cake at my sister’s shower, so i went looking for a good yellow cake recipe that could stack up to the box cake standard.  And lo and behold, I found it over at Smitten Kitchen.  Has it become clear yet that I am a big fan of Deb’s?  She waxes rhapsodic about the joys of this cake as a birthday cake stand-by, and I have to agree.  It’s moist (there’s that word again), it’s soft without being too squishy to stack easily and it has a great vanilla flavor.  I will happily be filing this away in my recipe box to make an appearance at birthday parties and celebrations for years to come (whenever I can drag myself away from the chocolate cake of course).  I’m looking forward to trying this as a layer cake, but I can say with certainty that it is excellent as a cupcake.

Go-To Yellow Cake borrowed (not really adapted at all, just cupcaked) from Smitten Kitchen

made ~24 cupcakes, but also works for a 2-layer 9″ cake.

  • 4 c plus 2 Tbsp cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • 2 c sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs, room temp
  • 2 cups buttermilk*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   Line cupcake pan wells with cupcake liners, or if making a regular cake, spray 2 9″ cake pans with Pam, line with parchment and then spray the parchment.  Or use butter, which is messier, but probably a little better in the taste category.  I am lazy and use Pam.

Combine dry ingredients (except sugar).  In a separate large bowl beat butter and sugar till fluffy.  Add vanilla and beat.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping after each one.  Turn speed to low (so as not to fling batter everywhere) and slowly add the buttermilk.  It will look like a mess.   Trust in Deb and just keep going.   Add the dry ingredients in three batches, mixing until just incorporated (i.e. no dry streaks).

Fill the cupcake liners about 1/2 – 2/3 full, and smack them on the counter to get rid of air bubbles.  (or fill two cake pans, also with the smacking).  Bake until it’s a lovely golden color and a toothpick comes out clean.  (Deb says 35-40 minutes for a cake, cupcakes take considerably shorter.  My oven is unpredictable so I’d say start checking around 15 minutes to be safe.)  Cool in pans on rack for ~10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on racks before frosting.  The frosting I used for these cupcakes are here.

*As usual, I subbed in regular milk+2 Tbsp lemon juice.  Combine, let sit till curdley, mix and use as directed.    One of these days I’ll buy some powdered buttermilk.

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You know how some words just make you wrinkle your nose?   I’ve found that among my friends and acquaintances, the most cited “nails on a chalkboard” word is moist.   And I can kind of understand it.  Moooiiiisssst.  It’s not the most appetizing word.  But I don’t think I can describe this cake without using it –   Damp?  Dewy?   What other word works to describe the perfect lush crumb of this deep dark chocolaty cake?  So, moist it is.    Or if you prefer – as a friend of mine exclaimed while eating a cupcake, “This cake is so freakin’ M-word in the middle!”

I’ve made this cake a number of times and it’s always wonderful.  Most recently it appeared as cupcakes at my sister’s baby shower, but before that it was also the bottom layer on her wedding cake, cupcakes at a PartyLite party and 2 birthday cakes.  The first time I made it, I failed to read the recipe thoroughly and used an 9″ cake pan instead of the 10″ called for.  Do not make that mistake!  I was scraping chocolate cake off the bottom of my oven for some time, but the cake itself was great after some drastic leveling.   It goes particularly well with chocolate ganache to take it into the next level of chocolaty goodness, but it’s also excellent with peanut butter frosting or caramel.   Check out this post for for the frostings I used at the shower.

Since then I’ve made this cake in so many different sizes that I finally  just made a conversion spreadsheet so I didn’t have to resort to long division on the margins of the recipe card.   Yep, I’m a dork.  But, I’ve saved it here as a Google doc if you want to check it out.  Change the blue highlighted numbers at the top to match your pans and then follow the light blue measurements.  Don’t worry too much about the odd decimals.  Just eyeball it as best as you can; it’s worked so far for me.

M-Word Double-Chocolate Cake from Epicurious

Makes a 2-layer 10″ cake, which translates to about 40 cupcakes but see spreadsheet linked above for other sizes.

  • 3 oz good semi-sweet chocolate*, chopped
  • 1 1/2 c. hot coffee (I’ve used super weak coffee before for coffee haters.  You don’t really taste coffee, it just amps up the chocolate)
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 c. buttermilk**
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and grease 2 10 inch cake pans, line with parchment paper and grease paper.  If you are making cupcakes use liners , and skip the greasing.

Pour the hot coffee over the chocolate in a small bowl, and let it sit until the chocolate is melted.  Stir until smooth.

Sift together all the dry ingredients.  (Or use my lazy method and dump them into a bowl and then whisk for a minute to break up any clumps)  Beat eggs with a mixer until they lighten in color and thicken up.  (3-5 minutes).  Slowly add the rest of the wet ingredients and the melted chocolate mixture to the eggs, beating until well combined.  Add dry ingredients and beat on medium until just combined.  (absolutely no streaks of dry left).

Pour into pans and bake for ~1 hour.  A tester inserted into the center will be mostly clean, but may have a couple of clingy crumbs.

Let cool and then frost as desired.

*No chips.  No Hershey’s.  I like the Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bars, which are great quality for the price, but if you don’t have a TJ’s any good quality bar chocolate will do.

**I never have buttermilk on hand so I always use the handy dandy milk+lemon juice substitution.  Put 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice in your measuring cup, fill up with milk to the 1 1/2 cup line and let it sit for a couple of minutes.  Stir well before adding to the recipe.

Note:  Vanilla cake recipe to follow.  🙂  And excuse my terrible piping.  One of these days I’ll get a jumbo tip and a steady hand and actually learn how to turn out pretty cupcakes.

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I love pistachios.  They are by far the prettiest of nuts, and they are fun to eat in their little shells.  During my macaron adventure I learned that pistachios plus rose water is a wonderful combination, and so when I saw this post from Beth over at One Hundred Eggs it immediately caught my eye.  I filed it in my “next time I have a party” pile, and pulled it back out for a friend’s baby shower a few months later.  I am so glad I did!  The soft sticky dates, with the sweet honeyed nuts and just a hint of floral fragrance go so well together.  The warm spices offset all that sweet nicely too, so it’s not tooth ache inducing.

Oh and, they were easy too!  Yeah, it’s assembly work so it takes some time, but it’s the kind of thing you can do while watching TV and not mess up.  (otherwise known as “couch cooking” in my house.  I can often be found in front of the TV with my big cutting board in my lap and a pile of something to be chopped/peeled/stuffed/wrapped in a big bowl next to me.)

I also took Beth’s advice and wrapped about half of them in bacon and popped them into the oven to get crispy.   Stroke of genius.  The salty crispy meat against the sweet sticky date and the nutty-spiced filling – so much going on there and it’s all good.   Sadly, they were pretty much the ugliest party food I’ve ever made, and it was reflected in the fact that nobody ate the darned things.  Granted, we also had about 3 times as much food at the party as we needed, but still, I ended up taking almost all of them home again.   I’m not sure why I’m saying that like it’s a bad thing though…it meant I got to eat them all myself!  You can see a picture of them, looking sad compared to the rest of the party food, on my friend Dani’s blog here.   Scroll down about halfway through her post and check out the bottom corner of the table.   Ugly right?  But totally delicious.  The mama-to-be  (who as of yesterday is a mama!  Congrats Lisa!) described the non-baconed version as baklava wrapped in a date.

I made some changes from Beth’s recipe –  I increased the amount of pistachios (of course) and took it easy on the rose water.  I love rose water, but I do not like a heavy dose of it.  It starts to make me feel like I’m eating a fancy floral soap.   And I did the whole thing in the food processor since that seemed like an easier way to combine nuts with sticky honey.

Stuffed Dates adapted from One Hundred Eggs

1/2 cup almonds
3/4 cup pistachios (or other nut if you insist)
1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
4 Tbsp honey
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1 healthy pinch of salt
1-2 tsp rosewater
30 pitted dates
15 pieces of bacon, cut in half (Optional)

1.  Toast your nuts.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 4-8 minutes.  Keep an eye on them, burnt nuts are a horrible thing and cannot be salvaged.

2.  Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add the spices and sugar and pulse to combine.  Add the honey (start with about half of it and see what happens) and the rosewater and pulse to combine.

3.  Squeeze a pinch of the nut mix.  If the clump holds together you are good to go.  If not, add the rest of the honey (and feel free to consider adding more rose water as well.  Taste it and see what you think) and pulse to combine.   The resulting mixture reminded me of Floam, and started to climb the sides of the food processor.

4.  Stuff the pitted dates with the nut mixture.  Both the filling and the date are sticky enough that you shouldn’t have any problems getting the filling to stay put.  Just put a spoonful in there and shape the date back into a football shape around the filling.  You will get sticky; just go with it and remember not to lick your fingers until you are done.   (to pit dates – cut a slit down one side of the date using a paring knife.  Remove pit.  Very easy)

5. (Optional) Wrap with bacon, using tooth picks if needed to hold the bacon in place.  Bake on a broiling pan or rack above a cookie sheet at 375 degrees till the bacon is crispy.  Let cool and eat.  Tasty warm or at room temp.

The bacon-less version will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temp.  The bacon-ed version needs to be refrigerated to store and should be reheated for a few minutes in a warm oven.  And should you be without food processor, this could all be done with some diligent knife work on the nuts, maybe a little smashing in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin, and then just stirring in the spices and honey by hand.

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