Archived entries for the chocolatey

Tim Tam Slam

Our friend Fiona was kind enough to bring us some Tim Tams, chocolate covered biscuits, from Australia a few weeks ago. Tim Tams really are an ordinary, basically mediocre biscuit, but this was an extra special treat for one reason: the Tim Tam Slam. One of our friends introduced us to the Slam a while back, and we were instantly addicted. Basically, you use the biscuit as a ‘straw’ for hot coffee, tea or milk. The biscuit totally disintegrates into a delicious, oozy, sloppy mess.

And thus, you achieve Cookie Nirvana.

Here’s a video in which I demonstrate.

Wikipedia: Tim Tam Slam

Kickass brownies

So I think I’ve finally done it. I finally have the perfect kickass brownie recipe.
I know your heart is palpitating with excitement (sit down, you don’t want to faint) but at the same time, you’re wondering, “What makes it perfect?”

We can all argue (for days, perhaps) the merits of fudgy versus chewy versus cakey brownies. Believe me, unless you are some sort of psychotic chocolate hater, you probably have an opinion on it. What I’ve realized is that you can’t please everybody when it comes to brownies, so you might as well just make yourself happy. What do I like? For me, it is the chewy with the crackly top.

I thought I had come across the right recipe, but somehow this ended up feeling too… I don’t know, intensely chocolate, almost like a flourless chocolate cake. I’ve been trying to find something ever since that has more chewiness, still chocolatey but doesn’t knock you out– or basically not falling over from the chocolate and sugar rush afterward.

I came across a NY Times article on this very subject. (Great article– with a brief history of the brownie, just in case you are a food nerd like me.) In it, one of the recipes had the unusual ingredient of brown sugar, which I never thought to put into brownies. I gave this recipe a go and there was my Baking Epiphany: the brown sugar added moisture, which made it chewy, and a quick whisk on the eggs gave it the crinkly top. The only thing I found is that it was too sweet. So I adjusted the sugar by cutting back on the white sugar, and replacing some of it with brown sugar. One major plus point with brownies is that you don’t have to bother with super expensive chocolate. Believe me, it won’t make a difference. Just use chocolate that you would choose to eat. (If you hate Hershey’s, don’t use it. I’ll admit, I don’t like Hershey’s. But I’ll use Ghirardelli for brownies any day.) That is one of the things that is awesome about brownies: they are totally common, totally proletariat, but even the most pretentious, Valrhona-only-eating foodie still digs them.

With this recipe, the brownies taste even better the next day (if they last that long). They become sort of chewier; just make sure you wrap them up tightly when storing.

Kickass brownies
adapted from the NY Times
Makes 9 large brownies or 12 smallish ones

4 ounces butter (110 grams)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (110 grams)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (155 grams)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (50 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (56 grams)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Butter and flour an 8-inch pan.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate over low heat in a small, heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in salt, brown sugar, white sugar and vanilla. Cool until just warm.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs lightly. Whisk in the chocolate mixture. Stir in the flour and nuts.
  4. Pour the batter in the baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, until the top is shiny (you can check whether it’s done with a skewer, but crumbs should easily cling to the skewer. Try not to overbake). Cool on a baking rack.

Fine Cooking: Baking Brownies Just Right: Cakey, Chewy, or Fudgy
NY Times: Simple Pleasure, American Style

Oatmeal pancakes

When we’re not having waffles on the weekend, we’re usually having pancakes. With Mothers Day around the corner, I started thinking about one of my favorites: oatmeal pancakes. My mom really likes pancakes, and she really likes oatmeal for breakfast. I came across a recipe for oatmeal pancakes in Debra Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It turns out they are in fact two great things that taste great together. And you get fiber in your weekend breakfast to boot.

My kids are big fans of these. I serve them with a sweetened yogurt banana topping. (Bananas and oatmeal: another great combo.) They are really nice with basically any fruit topping, or just maple syrup. If you’re feeling really saucy you can try a Nutella chocolate sauce– it is really delish with the yogurt-banana topping. Don’t make this on a weekday or you’ll be in trouble (unless whipping up pancakes before work is your idea of fun!).

Oatmeal pancakes
adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
makes about a dozen small pancakes

1-1/2 cup oatmeal
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Combine the oatmeal and buttermilk in a large bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes.
  2. In a smaller bowl, combine the sugar, melted butter, eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined. Add to the oatmeal mixture.
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Add to the oatmeal mixture and whisk until just combined.
  4. Heat a lightly greased pan or griddle over medium heat. Drop batter in 1/4 cup portions and cook until bubbles form on the surface, then flip and cook on the other side for a bit longer. Serve immediately, or keep warm in a 200 F (90 C) oven.

Yogurt banana topping
3/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
3 tablespoons brown sugar (more or less for sweetness)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ripe banana, sliced

  1. Combine the yogurt, sour cream, brown sugar and vanilla and stir until combined. Taste for sweetness, adding more brown sugar if necessary.
  2. Add the banana and serve immediately.

Nutella topping
1/4 cup Nutella spread
3 tablespoons boiling water

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the Nutella with the water. Whisk quickly until smooth– the chocolate will seize and will initially look kind of lumpy, but it will smooth out with whisking.
  2. Enjoy!

Revisiting a classic: chocolate
chip cookies

I can bet nine times out of ten when I ask my kids what they want for dessert (and I’m in the mood to make it, that is) that they will ask for the same thing: chocolate chip cookies. Somehow this isn’t surprising, even though I make tons of their other favorites: rice pudding, brownies, various tarts, ice cream even. Is it a lack of creativity? Or is it true that Americans are always craving chocolate chip cookies? (Actually, when their friends are over, none of whom are American, this is the one thing besides popcorn that they can all agree on eating).

I earlier posted a recipe on chocolate chip cookies, but this is the version that I almost always go to. A couple of key things: make sure to toast the nuts first (if you are using them). This makes a huge difference in flavor. This recipe, which I’ve adapted and adjusted from The Best Recipe, creates not-too-sweet cookies that are chewy, rather than crispy. Do take them out of the oven earlier rather than later– if you overbake them, they will end up crunchy later on. (They are still great later on, but I won’t lie; they are definitely best a few minutes out of the oven.)

A few weeks ago I was watching the movie Stranger Than Fiction. (Aside: I found that movie, cliched title and all, to be really inventive, funny and touching. Totally underrated!) In a pivotal scene, Maggie Gyllenhaal, playing a baker, gives Will Ferrell’s character chocolate chip cookies. (Another funny aside: in the movie she is a tax-evading lefty kook. The name of her bakery? The Uprising.) Here is where both Kyle and I got distracted: the cookie looked great, but it was so so tiny! We were like, “what kind of baker bakes choco chip cookies the size of a dime?” Anyway, with these, you won’t have a problem. Just dole at least a tablespoonful for each cookie and they will be nice and big, and taste just as good as that Stranger Than Fiction cookie looked.

Classic chocolate chip cookies
makes about 2 dozen cookies

2/3 cup (150 grams) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (235 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (150 grams) chocolate chips
1/2 cup (50 grams) chopped walnuts (or pecans or almonds)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine the cooled melted butter with the white and brown sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand or hand mixer. Mix at low speed.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat at medium speed until the mixture has turned much lighter and airy. Scrape down the bowl and add the flour mixture. Beat together at low speed only until just combined. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.
  5. Drop the dough in one-tablespoon portions onto the baking sheet, leaving a bit of space around each cookie. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes. (Take them out of the oven before they seem fully baked — leave them on the baking sheet for another 5 minutes out of the oven and they will continue to bake a bit, but still stay chewy later.)
  6. Remove to a cooling rack and serve warm and gooey.

Roman holiday

The Pantheon, as shot by the little chica

It’s been a while since my previous post, but hopefully some travel pics will make up for it. During the holidays, my mom and niece came to visit, and as a treat, we went to Rome for a few days. We’ll definitely have to make a return trip because three of the five days were spent tending to a sick baby with an awful stomach virus, poor thing. Thankfully, we were staying in an apartment in Prati, where there was no shortage of good takeout pizza.

I had come to Rome with a list of recommendations from various articles and blogs. But after Day 1, I came away a bit disappointed and discovered that coming with a list is totally unnecessary in Rome; I didn’t need to seek out the absolute best coffee, or ice cream or pizza because if you stay in a regular, not-too-touristic neighborhood, the great stuff will just be at the place closest to your neighborhood. Within a few blocks of where we stayed, we stumbled on a really good bakery, a restaurant that was happy to do takeout pizza for us and a shop dedicated to fresh pasta of every sort (which we unfortunately did not have time to try.) The standard of things like coffee and ice cream is high everywhere, so, like Paris, it’s not necessary to go across town for the one that the Times or the foodies on eGullet claim is the absolute best. Ultimately, maybe my palate isn’t so refined, but who cares? We still had some great eats!

I discovered that I found central Rome to be incredibly touristic (not a surprise, but still a surprise, like the crowds at the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, yikes!), and I also discovered that when given her own camera, my 10-year-old little chica takes some really nice pictures. In fact, while I was getting deja vu while snapping pictures of Piazza Navona and the like (you know how you feel like you’ve seen something 100 times before, but not in person?), she somehow captured some interesting shots of the photographed-for-the-millionth time Pantheon and Coliseum. There’s something to be said for seeing something for the first time ever!

Here’s Dolce Maniera, the bakery where we picked up fruit tarts and croissants. Kyle and I stopped in here because we saw a group of old ladies standing outside with bags, so we walked down this stairs to this bakery which seemed to always be this crowded. The cornetti were really nice: sweet but not too sweet, and they had an orange taste to it. We devoured a bag of them on the plane ride back to Holland. Oh and can I talk about queuing in Rome? I got the impression that there is none. You push your way to the front, that’s the queue. What was funny is that on this night, there was a group of Filipinas there (no queuing over there either, believe me), so the crowd was twice as pushy. Go to a popular Filipino seafood market sometime and you’ll know what I’m talking about!

Chestnut vendor in the Campo de’ Fiori. We all loved the roasted chestnuts in the street. The smell alone was worth the trip. All the vendors used these drum grills and the same yellow paper cones.

Another treat in the Campo de’ Fiori. Pizza from the Forno Campo de’ Fiori. Not quite street food like panzerotti, but still awesome. The little guy likes.

Hot chocolate at Tazzo d’Oro, near the Pantheon. Hey, the coffee here wasn’t too shabby either.

Sundried tomatoes at the market.

And of course, ice cream. Who cares that it’s winter? I didn’t have anything quite like Grom, but I didn’t have anything bad either.

Little chica’s shot of the Coliseum.

Copyright © 2004–2009. All rights reserved.

RSS Feed. This blog powered by Wordpress and uses Modern Clix.